The Theory of Alternative Green
Richard Hunt's 'The Theory of Alternative Green'
The Causes of Poverty
Hunter-gatherer societies are not poor. They have been called the ‘original affluent society‘. Food and fuel is abundant and free, with never a need to store or cultivate. So poverty is not caused by lack of development or lack of knowledge. Hunter-gatherers do not trade or barter. When they kill game, they share it with the rest of the group; they do not exchange it. Exchange is considered highly anti-social. Far from being of a trucking disposition, primitive man was strongly averse to acts of barter. (Polanyi. Trade and Market in Early Empires. 1971) So there’s nothing natural about trade. Sometimes a charismatic, often paranoid figure arises, who, with his companions, like a street-gang today, terrorises the district into submission, forcing the people to hand over their food to feed him, his companions and their henchmen. But these tyrants die and without his ruthless charisma his companions lose their power. There’s nothing we can do about this sort of tyrant. But later their power was transmitted to others, and that we can do something about. When he dies his companions lose their goodies, so they pretend that the tyrant had been descended from the gods and that therefore his son was also semi-divine and so should inherit the kingship. That way the companions keep their goodies. This can only happen when a belief in a god or gods already exists. What had started out as a harmless, pretty explanation of the natural world becomes a tool for the companions of the tyrant. Moses goes up the mountain, has a chat with God and comes back down saying, “God says that 10% of all you own is holy and is the Lord’s and you pay it over every year to the Chief Priest (who just happens to be my brother.)” Religion demands obedience to ‘God’s‘ laws and the priests say that ‘God’s‘ laws say “pay your taxes“. It was those taxes that created the fabulous wealth of Solomon and his companions; and the poverty of everyone else. It is religion and government which causes poverty. If someone naively invents one of these silly gods, someone else will come along and exploit it.
The Enforced Surplus
In Mesopotamia the kings traded with other kings for luxury articles. There was no trade in the villages. Babylonia possessed neither market places nor a functioning market system. (Polanyi. Trade and Market in Early Empires. 1971)
The kings took what food and materials they wanted by force and religious taxation. Villages, contrary to conventional economic wisdom, did not exchange their food for the manufactured goods produced by the artisans of the cities, who only produced for the rich. The villages were proudly self-sufficient. They produced no more than was necessary including storage against the seven lean years. They never produce a surplus. Like every other organism in nature, they obey the law of Least Effort This implies that in a future free society the villages will not feed the cities. So it is crucial to validate the law of Least Effort. Two-car garages, climbing Mount Everest and competitive games don’t sound like Least Effort.
The Peck Order
When a group of birds are competing round a carcass, it saves a lot of fighting if each remembers which is stronger than another. So each stronger bird reminds the next weaker by the occasional peck. Instead of having to fight every time, the peck is enough. Keeping the peace with Least Effort. This behaviour pattern was first noticed amongst domestic chickens so was called the pecking order, or peck order or dominance hierarchy or rank order. In a pair bonding species the female takes the status of the male. The rank order is constantly changing as the young grow strong and the strong grow old. Among chimpanzees: The young male must challenge the females of his community, one by one, and then, when all have been dominated, he must begin to work his way into the dominance hierarchy of the adult males. (J. Goodall. Through a Window. 1990) But it’s not ‘red in tooth and claw‘; one of the functions of an alpha male is to support the weaker ones, who are not a threat to him, and to preserve the peace generally. The object of the peck order is to keep the peace with Least Effort. Many species are able to avoid fighting altogether by deciding the peck order with ritualised methods. Bower birds attract their mates, not by fighting, but by competing to decorate their nests with objects attractive to the females. This behaviour is called ‘conventional means to conventional goals.’ The human species also uses this system. To find our place in the peck order we agree to compete to get a ball between two posts (conventional goal) by only using our feet (conventional means). Or we compete by what sort of picture we have on our walls; at the bottom a flower print from Woolworths, then a reproduction of an eighteenth-century flower print, then an amateur watercolour, professional watercolour, oil painting, etc. until we reach the Van Gogh irises costing millions. By being able to afford it – whatever it looks like – he has reached the top of that peck order. In these cases the painting is the conventional goal, money the conventional means. Your make of car states your rank order without having to beat your neighbour over the head every morning. Or we compete by how many books we have on our shelves. So keeping up with the Joneses is very important – keeping the peace by Least Effort. Thus the two-car garage, climbing Mount Everest or competitive games are all consonant with Least Effort. All hunter-gatherer societies have peck orders. They sometimes even have chiefs in some of the larger groups. These command respect and influence, but not obedience. One word from the chief and everyone does as they please. (Marshall D. Sahlins. Tribalism. 1968) The problem is not hierarchy. There will always be hierarchy (peck order). The problem is obedience to hierarchy. It is obedience, not hierarchy, that causes poverty and oppression. Because it undermines the possibility of total socialist equality, sociology and psychology for the last forty years have been fighting rear-guard action against this concept, like the priests fought Galileo. But with the death of Socialism the concept of peck order is now incorporated into both sociology and psychology. Without the concept of the peck order this economic analysis could not be validated. It could not show that the human species obeys the law of Least Effort and that therefore in a free society the villages would not feed the cities.
Conventional economics says that trade creates wealth. This is not true; it simply moves it from the poor to the rich. With the invention of money the kings found that by taxing their traders who fed the urban artisans etc. and who would pass the tax straight on to these consumers, the kings could increase their income considerably without their subjects noticing that they were paying the hidden tax. So it was in the king’s interest to increase trade to increase his power. Therefore he built the King’s Highway, the bridges and the ports which all drain the raw materials from the periphery to the core. Cash is also used to force the peasant to feed the city. He is taxed in cash so he has to grow extra crops to sell in the city, not for urban artefacts, but for cash to hand back as taxes. He benefits in no way. That is why the villages feed the cities and the Third World feeds us, while they starve. A city is parasitic on its food-producing hinterland periphery. The more land it controls, the bigger the city. Sometimes, like Athens, it runs out of land and poverty forces it to make a living by the profits from trade. To do this it has to support client kings who supply their timber, wheat and wool. Because the cost of living at the core is always more expensive – water wood and food have to be bought, sewers built – than on the periphery, labour costs are always higher and therefore labour-saving machinery is more necessary and so technology is always more advanced at the core. The governments can therefore keep the client kings in power with their technologically more advanced weapons. These client kings are bribed to exploit their own people by selling their crops, as is happening in the Third World today. The core cannot eat without the periphery starving. Poland starved to feed medieval Europe. As Europe grew more populated, the food-producing and starving periphery expanded into the Balkans and Russia then to the slave plantations of the Americas. Today the starvation has expanded into the Third World. Athens is a good example of a city driven by lack of land into trade. Others are Tyre, Venice, Singapore and Hong Kong. But the main reason for trade is to increase the government’s power by the hidden indirect taxes. So trade does not create wealth. It removes the raw materials from the periphery to the core, and only the core and the rich on the periphery benefit. If the people had a choice there would be no trade.
Specialisation did not start because man was able to produce a surplus but because of poverty. When a man does not have enough land he is forced to specialise in weaving, or pottery, or basket-making. Such people are looked down on. In Polynesia: in some villages there is a despised community of craftsmen and traders, highly skilled in wood-carving and basketry. (A. S. Diamond. The Evolution of Law and Order. 1973) Specialisation means more work, not less. The hunter-gatherers work 1-3 hours a day, cultivators in Africa about 4 hours. Athenian farmers worked only half the year, there was little to do in the winter. In the Middle Ages they were beginning to work harder, but not too much: At Thaxted a virgator had worked 137 days in winter and summer (together) and 38 during the harvest on the basis of a five day week, four weeks holiday at Christmas, Easter and Whitsun and 61 saints days. (N. Kenyon. Economic History Review. 1934) Today, taking travelling time and overtime into account, we work about as hard as the Victorians. But three-quarters of the female population now do paid work as well. So altogether we’re working half as hard again. Certain orthodox views are better turned around; the amount of work per capita increases in proportion to technological advance and the amount of leisure decreases. (Marshall D. Sahlins. Tribalism. 1968) The effect of industrialism at the core is to de-industrialise the periphery. In the nineteenth century British cheap manufactured goods destroyed the thriving Indian weaving industry. If India is able to re-industrialise now it is only at the expense of the further periphery in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal etc., and also British industry. It is the loss of the land, not population growth, which is the cause of industry. In Indonesia, until recently just as high a density of population produced not industry but a very intensive, self-sufficient agriculture.
Division of Labour
The economic theory which justifies driving the population off the land and into the factories was worked out by Adam Smith. His theory of Division of Labour says that if in a business each person specialises in what he is best at, then the firm is more successful. Correct. It then says that therefore all the members of that firm are better paid. Incorrect. The wages of the workers are determined, not by the success of the firm, but by hungrier unemployed people at the factory gate, prepared to work for less. This theory was expanded by Ricardo to justify the destruction of periphery industry by international trade. The theory now says that if two countries specialise in what each is best at (even if one can produce everything more cheaply), more is produced overall. Correct. The theory then says that the workers in both countries are therefore better paid. Incorrect. The wages of the Third World today prove that the wage levels are determined, not by the success of the county’s economy, but the starving prepared to work for less.
A Sprint Through History
Rome did not need to industrialise because it obtained its raw materials by force and taxation from land within its own jurisdiction. As with the Chinese empire the state derived its income by direct taxation on land rather than indirect taxation on trade, so for both these reasons it didn’t need to trade. Nor were either of them threatened by technologically superior neighbours so did not need to invest in military research and development. China even forbade further research into gunpowder. When the Roman Empire declined, only the western half fell; the eastern half survived for another thousand years. The fall was caused by the transfer of taxes when the emperor moved from Rome to Constantinople. Constantinople could afford to defend itself; Rome could not. With the fall came a strong decline in population and regression of technology. In some areas the potters wheel vanished and so did the woodworker’s plane. After Rome’s collapse began the growth of technology which culminated in our present civilisation. It was caused by the Church’s extravagant building programme, which had to be paid for by higher agricultural output and reduced labour costs. They were forced to increase the use of the water mill (sixth century), the heavy plough (seventh century), the three-field system (eighth century) and the horse shoe and collar (ninth century). Until the fourteenth century the Church with their agriculture, building, hydraulics and metallurgy led the technological way. And from where the monasteries were most concentrated, northern Italy, northern France and Flanders, developed the leading industrial centres which had grown from servicing the monasteries. Europe at the time was broken up into many warring cities and states, deriving much of its income from taxation on trade. Gradually the cities without a large tax base to afford the weapons, were incorporated into the larger states until there were three major players: Holland, France and Britain. The British parliament would not vote sufficient taxation to Charles I to build the necessary army and navy, but Cromwell got the money to be raised by indirect taxation. This continued for a century until Britain ruled the waves at the cost of the highest indirect taxation in Europe and therefore the highest cost of living. This meant high wages and our goods were being priced out of the European market. Britain was forced to cut labour costs by industrialising, forced by the indirect taxation. Indirect taxation causes economic growth. Germany, frightened of its neighbour’s technological military superiority and slaughtered by the cheap British imported goods, was then forced to industrialise. And so was everyone else. The people who paid the cost of this industrialisation were the Third World who’s land grows crops for us instead of food for themselves.
Checklist for Economic Growth
So if the Tories or Labour want to increase economic growth, it’s very simple. You make sure the population has no land and can be forced into the factories. You hit them with indirect taxes to increase the cost of living wages and labour costs and make labour-saving technology necessary. You need a high population to provide enough consumers to buy the output of the factories and make the economies of scale profitable. You need threatening neighbours to encourage high military expenditure which will keep your client governments in power to force their people to supply the raw materials. So the causes of poverty are the loss of the land, government taxation, trade and industry. Religion caused the kings which caused taxation which caused trade and industry which caused poverty.
The Green Party
This analysis means that Green Party policies, by increasing indirect taxes, would cause more, not less economic growth. They themselves have costed their policies at £8.4 billion more than present government expenditure,which would increase the power and control of government. They plan to raise this extra money by increasing indirect taxes. This would increase the cost of living and therefore wages and therefore the need for labour-saving machinery which would cause unemployment and more economic growth, the unemployment being mostly in the Third World. It would also mean that small businesses would fail because they could not make the extra money to cover the increased cost of living. All labour- intensive activities like repairing, recycling and all the caring activities would become uneconomic The small communities would be made even weaker, making even fewer decisions, and big would become beautiful.
A Village Society
Alternative Green advocates a return to autonomous, self-sufficient villages of around 500 people. 500 is about the largest number of people that one person can know. Above that number social disruption increases because of anonymity. When a group exceeds 500 persons, it requires some form of policing. (J. Pfeiffer. The Emergence of Man. 1969)
Disputes in societies of this size are settled not between individuals but between families . In extreme cases such as murder all the relations of a murderer are expected to contribute to the ‘blood price‘ paid to all the victim’s family. A lot of cows change hands and the murderer’s family is very angry for having lost their cattle. So there is strong family pressure to make individuals behave. It is the kinship tie which is the crucial element in keeping the peace; and for the weaker members of the group a strong source of protection. For a wife it is a useful insurance to have a father and brothers living down the street. Kinship helps create equality, too. Amongst the Gurkhas: Over the past 50 years in Thak there has been a gradual equalisation of land holdings towards the five-plot level. Macfarlane suggests that the numerous cross-cutting bonds, linking every with everyone else, has reduced conflict and maintained a kind of non-competitiveness. (Gellner and Humphrey. New Society. 17.8.78.) The importance of kinship as the only factor in creating a community has been made clear by the Bethnal Green studies. In the 1940s and 1950s there was much concern over the break-up of the community and many studies were made to find what held communities together. In Bethnal Green, famous for the last surviving urban community, in four different studies the only factor they could find was kinship to the extent that all the studies were excluded from Community Studies (C. Bell / H. Newby. 1971) on the specific grounds that they only mentioned kinship. The change-over from our kin-dispersed society to kin-based communities would probably be achieved by unrelated families first forming supportive coalitions and then intermarrying to create a kinship group.
Wars are fought to take the crops. You cannot defend the crops with non-violence. Every village will have to be defendable otherwise the next village will surely encroach and try to extend its boundaries. However friendly they are you can never be sure that one day they won’t produce, a Saddam Hussein. It’s no big deal. Half the population in the villages today, the farmers, are already armed and they don’t go around shooting everyone. In fact it has been said that an armed society is a very polite one.
As we have seen, towns, cities, technology are all exploitative, so there’ll be no place in the villages for technology. You can’t knock up a kidney dialysis machine in the garden shed. If you want just a little technology, you are asking for just a little exploitation, Who are you going to exploit? Who are you going to force to spend their lives making screws and nails for you? If they’ve got their own land, they won’t do it voluntarily.
The Oppression of Women
The difficult fact that feminists gloss over is that men are bigger and stronger and can hit harder. The function of the male is to protect the female and that fact must be brought into the equation. For feminists the oppression of women is caused by hierarchy, pornography, sexist language and the up-bringing of children. The oppression is caused, rather, by the dog-eat-dog society where the more co-operative women lose out to the more competitive men. In a village society people will still be both co-operative and competitive, but there will be no police force or army to enforce laws of land ownership. To get your plot you will have to co-operate with the rest of the village. There will be no money to buy care in your old age or illness. We’ll need to co-operate with each other for our own self-interest. Our natural competitiveness will be moderated by our need to co-operate. In our present society the state takes care of the old and the ill; the police enforce the laws of property. The need to co-operate has been destroyed by money, the private ownership of land and the welfare state. So our natural competitiveness is no longer moderated by the need to co-operate and grows into a monster. Hence the dog-eat-dog society. All people have both competitive and co-operative urges. But men grow up, pushed by their hormones, to be more competitive, the women more co-operative. In a dog-eat-dog society the more competitive men win out. The more co-operative women go to the wall. Thus the feminists are wrong to find the cause of their oppression in hierarchy, pornography, sexist language and the upbringing of children. The capitalists will be delighted to excise all unsuitable language, ban-pornography and change the upbringing of children because they know that it will change nothing. They’ll put a few token women on the board and have a free hand to employ the rest as factory fodder at the lowest wages in a ‘free market’, another phrase for the dog-eat-dog society. The feminists will never get rid of hierarchy (peck order). It’s what holds social groups together with Least Effort. And it isn’t the problem. The problem is not hierarchy but obedience to hierarchy. In village societies there will be a rank order, and in some larger groups even chiefs. But they cannot command obedience. One word from the chief and everyone does as they please. (Marshall D. Sahlins. Tribalism. 1968) Without obedience the religions and governments could not enforce their oppression of women, however hierarchic they are. The problem is obedience, not hierarchy. The feminists are quite right to realise that competitiveness has run out of control, but are wrong to think it can be solved by bringing up boy children without toy guns. It hasn’t worked. Competitiveness can only be moderated by the need to co-operate. And persuading women to be more assertive is only coping with the dog-eat-dog society, not changing it. Sexist language is another red herring. Words do not influence what we think. They reflect it. So removing sexist language will not reduce the oppression of women. If words changed what we thought, any sort of expression of logical thought becomes impossible because the thought would be changed by the words expressing them. But perhaps the major fault of feminism is that it has nothing to say to poor women. The function of the police is to protect the property of the rich and the middle classes against the poor. The function of the police is to suppress the poor. Poor women know that they will get little protection from the police. So they need to find a strong male, or if not strong, one who looks strong, macho. Feminism is a luxury for the middle classes in a police state. So, the cause of the oppression of women is not hierarchy, pornography, sexist language and the upbringing of children, but the dog-eat-dog society, caused by money, the private ownership of land, the welfare state and obedience.
The Function of The Artist
The place of the artist today is to reinforce the authority of the elite by building their palaces, or office complexes, decorating their walls, making their furniture and status symbols; in a village society that will have no place but artists will still be useful, though not envied. Freud was right to say that art is born out of neurosis. The artist in his unhappiness paints for approval and applause. The community would use his talent. “Write a song for us to sing.” “Carve us a totem pole.” This relationship is clearly illustrated in the following extract. Andrew was a disturbed child. His drawings revealed a very active fantasy life peopled by some imaginary characters called Poppy, Purple, Tulip, Dandelion and later on Bud who represented his baby brother. These figures had exciting adventures with much aggressive action, and the other children in the nursery school group became interested and began to take the names and act out the parts in character. He was a very intelligent child and the other children were giving him a great deal of help by their reliance on his intellectual and imaginative stimulation in their play activities. (Joan Cass. The Significance of Childrens’ Play. 1971) It is only a small step from Andrew to the bard singing his sagas to the villagers. So they would welcome the bard’s imagination but would not envy it. Creativity and self-expression would be exploited but not encouraged. Craftsmanship is a little different to Art. One can foresee houses, clothes, utensils and weapons being decorated as an expression of pride and status, but Art for Art’s sake will have no place.
With the decline in economic growth always comes a decline in population. Self-sufficient communities limit their population growth since another baby means less for everyone else.
Economic growth reduces self-sufficient communities and increases the number of families who buy food and are therefore outside the sphere of community pressure to maintain population stability. So a decline in economic growth and an increase in self-sufficient communities would see a decline in population.
There are two approaches, both depending on cutting government power by cutting its life-blood: taxation. The legal way is to elect MPs committed to cutting taxes, first indirect taxes on the poor. As taxation declines, so does the cost of living, making small businesses more successful because they don’t need so much turnover. A lower cost of living means lower wages, maintaining buying power, so that repairing and recycling are more economic and tender loving care can replace drugs.
Small communities are made stronger. Small becomes beautiful. Taxes can be cut until there are no taxes and therefore no government. The revolutionary way must start in the Third World where already, because America is broke, the Third World tyrants are receiving less arms ‘aid‘. So they will lose control of their peripheries and the crops. This, by cutting taxation on trade, will weaken our own governments, who will be unable to control their own peripheries, where no-go areas can be set up. As governments lose more taxes by legal and illegal means and become weaker, the no-go areas of autonomous, self-sufficient villages will spread.