Tuesday, October 18, 2005


The RICH Economy
by Robert Anton Wilson
from The Illuminati Papers

If there is one proposition which currently wins the assent of nearly everybody, it is that we need more jobs. "A cure for unemployment" is promised, or earnestly sought, by every Heavy Thinker from Jimmy Carter to the Communist Party USA, from Ronald Reagan to the head of the economics department at the local university, from the Birchers to the New Left.

I would like to challenge that idea. I don't think there is, or ever again can be, a cure for unemployment. I propose that unemployment is not a disease, but the natural, healthy functioning of an advanced technological society.

The inevitable direction of any technology, and of any rational species such as Homo sap., is toward what Buckminster Fuller calls ephemeralization, or doing-more-with-less. For instance, a modern computer does more (handles more bits of information) with less hardware than the proto-computers of the late '40's and '50's. One worker with a modern teletype machine does more in an hour than a thousand medieval monks painstakingly copying scrolls for a century. Atomic fission does more with a cubic centimeter of matter than all the engineers of the 19th Century could do with a million tons, and fusion does even more.

Unemployment is not a disease; so it has no "cure."

This tendency toward ephemeralization or doing more-with-less is based on two principal factors, viz:

1. The increment-of-association, a term coined by engineer C.H. Douglas, a meaning simply that when we combine our efforts we can do more than the sum of what each of us could do seperately. Five people acting synergetically together can lift a small modern car, but if each of the five tries separately, the car will not budge. As society evolved from tiny bands, to larger tribes, to federations of tribes, to city-states, to nations, to multinational alliances, the increment-of-association increased exponentially. A stone-age hunting band could not build the Parthenon; a Renaissance city-state could not put Neil Armstrong on the Moon. When the increment-of-association increases, through larger social units, doing-more-with-less becomes increasingly possible.

2. Knowledge itself is inherently self-augmenting. Every discovery "suggests" further discoveries; every innovation provokes further innovations. This can be seen concretely, in the records of the U.S. Patent Office, where you will find more patents granted every year than were granted the year before, in a rising curve that seems to be headed toward infinity. If Inventor A can make a Whatsit out of 20 moving parts, Inventor B will come along and build a Whatsit out of 10 moving parts. If the technology of 1900 can get 100 ergs out of a Whatchamacallum, the technology of 1950 can get 1,000 ergs. Again, the tendency is always toward doing-more-with-less.*

Unemployment is directly caused by this technological capacity to do more-with-less. Thousands of monks were technologically unemployed by Gutenberg. Thousands of blacksmiths were technologically unemployed by Ford's Model T. Each device that does-more-with-less makes human labor that much less necessary.

Aristotle said that slavery could only be abolished when machines were built that could operate themselves. Working for wages, the modern equivalent of slavery -- very accurately called "wage slavery" by social critics -- is in the process of being abolished by just such self-programming machines. In fact, Norbert Wiener, one of the creators of cybernetics, foresaw this as early as 1947 and warned that we would have massive unemployment once the computer revolution really got moving.

It is arguable, and I for one would argue, that the only reason Wiener's prediction has not totally been realized yet -- although we do have ever-increasing unemployment -- is that big unions, the corporations, and government have all tacitly agreed to slow down the pace of cybernation, to drag their feet and run the economy with the brakes on. This is because they all, still, regard unemployment as a "disease" and cannot imagine a "cure" for the nearly total unemployment that full cybernation will create.

Suppose, for a moment, we challenge this Calvinistic mind-set. Let us regard wage-work -- as most people do, in fact, regard it -- as a curse, a drag, a nuisance, a barrier that stands between us and what we really want to do. In that case, your job is the disease, and unemployment is the cure.

"But without working for wages we'll all starve to death!?! Won't we?"

Not at all. Many farseeing social thinkers have suggested intelligent and plausible plans for adapting to a society of rising unemployment. Here are some examples.

1. The National Dividend. This was invented by engineer C. H. Douglas and has been revived with some modifications by poet Ezra Pound and designer Buckminster Fuller. The basic idea (although Douglas, Pound, and Fuller differ on the details) is that every citizen should be declared a shareholder in the nation, and should receive dividends on the Gross National Product for the year. Estimates differ as to how much this would be for each citizen, but at the current level of the GNP it is conservative to say that a share would be worth several times as much, per year, as a welfare recipient receives -- at least five times more.

Critics complain that this would be inflationary. Supporters of the National Dividend reply that it would only be inflationary if the dividends distributed were more than the GNP; and they are proposing only to issue dividends equal to the GNP.

2. The Guaranteed Annual Income. This has been urged by economist Robert Theobald and others. The government would simply establish an income level above the poverty line and guarantee that no citizen would receive less; if your wages fall below that level, or you have no wages, the government makes up the difference.

This plan would definitely cost the government less than the present welfare system, with all its bureaucratic red tape and redundancy: a point worth considering for those conservatives who are always complaining about the high cost of welfare. It would also spare the recipients the humiliation, degradation and dehumanization built into the present welfare system: a point for liberals to consider. A system that is less expensive than welfare and also less debasing to the poor, it seems to me, should not be objectionable to anybody but hardcore sadists.

3. The Negative Income Tax. This was first devised by Nobel economist Milton Friedman and is a less radical variation on the above ideas. The Negative Income Tax would establish a minimum income for every citizen; anyone whose income fell below that level would receive the amount necessary to bring them up to that standard. Friedman, who is sometimes called a conservative but prefers to title himself a libertarian, points out that this would cost "the government" (i.e. the taxpayers) less than the present welfare system, like Theobald's Guaranteed Annual Income. It would also dispense with the last tinge of humiliation associated with government "charity," since when you cashed a check from IRS nobody (not even your banker) would know if it was supplementary income due to poverty or a refund due to overpayment of last year's taxes.

4. The RICH Economy. This was devised by inventor L. Wayne Benner (co-author with Timothy Leary of Terra II) in collaboration with the present author. It's a four-stage program to retool society for the cybernetic and space-age future we are rapidly entering. RICH means Rising Income through Cybernetic Homeostasis.

Stage I is to recognize that cybernation and massive unemployment are inevitable and to encourage them. This can be done by offering a $100,000 reward to any worker who can design a machine that will replace him or her, and all others doing the same work. In other words, instead of being dragged into the cybernetic age kicking and screaming, we should charge ahead bravely, regarding the Toilless Society as the Utopian goal humanity has always sought.

Stage II is to establish either the Negative Income Tax or the Guaranteed Annual Income, so that the massive unemployment caused by Stage I will not throw hordes of people into the degradation of the present welfare system.

Stage III is to gradually, experimentally, raise the Guaranteed Annual Income to the level of the National Dividend suggested by Douglas, Bucky Fuller, and Ezra Pound, which would give every citizen the approximate living standard of the comfortable middle class. The reason for doing this gradually is to pacify those conservative economists who claim that the National Dividend is "inflationary" or would be practically wrecking the banking business by lowering the interest rate to near-zero. It is our claim that this would not happen as long as the total dividends distributed to the populace equaled the Gross National Product. but since this is a revolutionary and controversial idea, it would be prudent, we allow, to approach it in slow steps, raising the minimum income perhaps 5 per cent per year for the first ten years. And, after the massive cybernation caused by Stage I has produced a glut of consumer goods, experimentally raise it further and faster toward the level of a true National Dividend.

Stage IV is a massive investment in adult education, for two reasons. (1) People can spend only so much time fucking, smoking dope, and watching TV; after a while they get bored. This is the main psychological objection to the workless society, and the answer to it is to educate people for functions more cerebral than fucking, smoking dope, watching TV, or the idiot jobs most are currently toiling at. (2) There are vast challenges and opportunities confronting us in the next three or four decades, of which the most notable are those highlighted in Tim Leary's SMI2LE slogan -- Space Migration, Intelligence Increase, Life Extension. Humanity is about to enter an entirely new evolutionary relationship to space, time, and consciousness. We will no longer be limited to one planet, to a brief, less-than-a-century lifespan, and to the stereotyped and robotic mental processes by which most people currently govern their lives. Everybody deserves the chance, if they want it, to participate in the evolutionary leap to what Leary calls "more space, more time, and more intelligence to enjoy space and time."

What I am proposing, in brief, is that the Work Ethic (find a Master to employ you for wages, or live in squalid poverty) is obsolete. A Work Esthetic will have to arise to replace this old Stone Age syndrome of the slave, the peasant, the serf, the prole, the wage-worker -- the human labor-machine who is not fully a person but, as Marx said, " a tool, an automaton." Delivered from the role of things and robots, people will learn to become fully developed persons, in the sense of the Human Potential movement. They will not seek work out of economic necessity, but out of psychological necessity -- as an outlet for their creative potential.

("Creative potential" is not a panchreston. It refers to the inborn drive to play, to tinker, to explore, and to experiment, shown by every child before his or her mental processes are stunted by authoritarian education and operant-conditioned wage-robotry.)

As Bucky Fuller says, the first thought of people, once they are delivered from wage slavery, will be, "What was it that I was so interested in as a youth, before I was told I had to earn a living?" The answer to that question, coming from millions and then billions of persons liberated from mechanical toil, will make the Renaissance look like a high school science fair or a Greenwich Village art show.


* I cannot spend more space on this point here. Those who want more evidence of the doing-more-with-less phenomenon should consult Fuller's Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth and Alfred Korzybski's Manhood of Humanity.

Copyright: Robert Anton Wilson
Used with kind Permission
Cunning-folk, who were also known as wise-women, wise-men, conjurors and wizards, were an integral part of English society right up until the early twentieth century. Over the centuries hundreds of thousands of people must have consulted them regarding a wide range of problems, but particularly those concerning affairs of the heart, theft, sickness and most important of all witchcraft. They were multi-skilled, or at least professed to be so. They practised herbalism, treasure-seeking and love magic. They revealed the identity of thieves and divined the whereabouts of lost and stolen property. The more learned cunning-folk also practised astrology, while the less learned pretended to be masters of the art. The most lucrative aspect of their business was the curing of those people and animals who were thought to be bewitched, and also the trade in charms to ward of witches and evil spirits.
Alexandra David was born in Paris, on the 24th of October 1868. As a child her favourite books were the science fiction fantasies of Jules Verne, and she promised herself one day to outdo the heroes of these stories. One of the first indications of this sense of adventure was her running away just before the family left to move to Brussels. Only after a widespread search was she caught by a gendarme, whom she scratched for his trouble.

By the age of fifteen Alexandra had already begun to study music, at this time she also obtained her first occult  reading matter, an English journal produced by the Society of the Supreme Gnosis, sent to her by a woman called Elisabeth Morgan. That summer her family spent the holidays in Ostend, but Alexandra wanted something more interesting and walked into Holland and crossed over to England. In London she found Mrs. Morgan, who immediately persuaded her to return home.

In 1885, when she was seventeen, Alexandra again left home. This time she hiked alone over the Saint-Gotthard Pass through the Alps to the Italian lakes. Her mother came and retrieved her at Milan.

The following year she entered the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, and three years later won first prize for her soprano voice. In 1888 she went to study in London, and stayed cheaply and securely at the Society of Supreme Gnosis. Here, Elisabeth Morgan introduced her to Madame Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophical Society, whose ideas had a significant influence on Alexandra.

Alexandra returned to Brussels the next year to carry on her studies of music and voice. In her early twenties she studied at the Sorbonne and became a political radical, keeping a pistol and ammunition in her Paris room. In 1891, when she was twenty-three, disguised as a man, she joined a Paris cult led by Sri Ananda Saraswati, who used hashish to obtain visions. That same year she travelled for more than a year through Ceylon and India. At Adyar, near Madras, she joined the Theosophists under Annie Besant, and studied Sanskrit with them. At the holy city of Benares, on the Ganges, she studied yoga with the great Swami Bhaskarananda (of Varanasi), who lived the whole year in a rose garden. She was fascinated by India and the Tibetan music she heard there, but was forced to return to Brussels when she ran out of money.

From 1894 to 1900 she lived as an aspiring actress/singer, but by 1900 her career was going nowhere and she accepted a job with the municipal opera in Tunis. Here she met Philip Neel, a thirty-nine-year-old bachelor who worked as a railway engineer.  They married on 4th August, 1904, and took a villa at La Goulette next to the Mediterranean Sea. But Alexandra was bored as a housewife. Fortunately, her husband seemed to understand her longing for distant lands and agreed to let her travel.

In 1911 she undertook her second voyage to India, and arrived at Pondicherry - all that remained of French India - where the police kept an eye on her due to her extremist tendencies. By 1912 Alexandra was living in Calcutta,  where on one occasion, annoyed by the behaviour of fakirs, she lay down on a bed of nails, and explained to a passing British tourist that she needed a rest and was lucky to find a bed. She also took part in Tantric rites, on one occasion the ritual of the so-called 'five forbidden substances': meat, fish, grain, wine, and sexual union.

She was progressing quickly with her Sanskrit studies, and was so noted a figure at holy Benares as to be honoured by the College of Sanskrit  there with an honorary doctorate of philosophy, a first for a European woman. 

When she arrived in the small Himalayan state of Sikkim, in 1912, she immediately felt at home, and increased her knowledge of Buddhism by visiting all the important monasteries there. She also met Prince Sidkeong of Sikkim. It was here that she became the first European woman to meet the Dalai Lama, at the time in exile. He told her to learn the Tibetan language. She made great progress in this and met the Gomchen (great hermit) of the monastery of Lachen. He was an impressive figure wearing a five-sided crown, a rosary necklace of 108 pieces of human skull, an apron carved of human bone, and a magic dagger. During the next two years Alexandra met with the hermit and learnt the art of telepathy from him. She also attempted 'tumo' breathing, the Tibetan art of generating body heat to keep warm in freezing conditions.

Two years later she met a young man called Aphur Yongden, and a friendship which was to last a lifetime developed between them; he eventually became her adopted son. They both moved to a cave hermitage in northern Sikkim, close to the border with Tibet, which it was forbidden to cross into. Tibet was rarely visited by Europeans at that time, let alone European women. Nevertheless Alexandra and Yongden did so twice, the result being expulsion from Sikkim in 1916.

Because of the war it was impossible to return to Europe, so they travelled to Japan. In a letter to her husband at the time Alexandra confessed to being 'haunted by the steppes, the solitude, the everlasting snow and the great blue sky '. From Japan they travelled on to Korea, then had an extremely difficult journey across the entire width of China, then the Gobi desert and Mongolia. They were attacked by bandits on the way to the monastery of Kum Bum, where they were to spend three years deep in study. 

At Kum Bum she managed to create a 'tulpa', a phantom produced by intense concentration of thought and the repetition of relevant rites over a period of months. She created a stout, phantom monk, whose form gradually became more life like, and before long he was accompanying her on her travels and behaving almost like a normal human being. However, he gradually began to change from a fat, jolly monk into a leaner more sinister character, and started to escape from her control. The tulpa was seen by others in her travelling party proving it to have an objective existence, but, to avoid serious problems with her creation, Alexandra decided to 'dissolve' it. But this proved extremely difficult as the phantom clung desperately on to his life; she only succeeded in getting rid of him after six months of hard concentration. 

Soon after this, in February 1921, Alexandra and Yongden left all their belongings and, disguised as beggars, set off on their journey to forbidden Tibet, and the holy city of Lhasa. The journey was to last an epic three years, and the details are recounted in Alexandra's book My Journey to Lhasa, first published in English in 1927. The route, as the crow flies, was 3,900 miles, but Alexandra's expedition was a different matter. She was twice intercepted and often had to change her plans. At one stage, in early 1923, she went as far north as the Gobi Desert, from where she returned via Kanchow and Lanchow, south through China, and westwards into southern Tibet. Altogether her journey covered around 8,000 miles on horse, sedan chair and foot.

Along the way bandits were a menace, as were tigers and leopards. On the journey they met a strange phenomenon known as a 'lung-gom' runner. First seen as a distant moving black spot, this rapidly changed into a man running towards them at an incredible speed. Alexandra was warned not to stop the speeding lama or it would kill him. When she looked closely at him she could see that he his expression was extremely relaxed and staring fixedly at an imaginary far away object. His steps were as regular as a pendulum, though he didn't seem to run but progressed by great leaps like a bouncing rubber ball. He held a magic dagger in his right hand which he seemed to be using as a staff, though it was high off the ground. Apparently, such runners would carry on this amazing feat for days without stopping for food or water. Alexandra was told that years of meditation were required before undertaking this feat. 

In February 1924, Alexandra and Yongden eventually arrived in the territory of Lhasa. Here they remained for two months, before leaving as quietly and unobtrusively as they had entered.

Alexandra returned home to France in 1925, and was a huge success in Paris. After separating from Philip she settled in Digne, Provence, in 1928, and built 'Samten-Dzong', which she called her 'fortress of meditation'. She published many books about her travels from here and also went on lecture tours throughout Europe.

In 1937, at the age of 70, she set off for China via the Trans-Siberian railway, arriving there during the violent war with Japan. She wrote and studied despite the conditions and went on to India in 1946.

She returned to France and settled once again at Digne. In 1955 Yongden died. Alexandra worked constantly and had her passport renewed at the age of 100, much to the surprise of the officials at the passport office. She was awarded a gold medal by the Geographical society of Paris and in 1969 was made a Knight of the Legion of Honour. In addition, in Tibet, she was granted the rank of lama. She died on 8th September, 1969.

On the 28th February 1973, her ashes with those of her adopted son, Lama Yongden, were scattered over the waters of the Ganges at the holy city of Benares.

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