Why Central Planning Fails

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Bill Booner
March 11, 2013

The Dow is still rising. It rose another 125 points yesterday [Marh 5] … hitting a new record high.

Bill Bonner
Bill Bonner

Gold is dawdling.

We’re still thinking about how so many smart people came to believe things that aren’t true. Krugman, Stiglitz, Friedman, Bernanke — all seem to have a simpleton’s view of how the world works. They believe they can manipulate the future and make it better. Not just for themselves, but for everyone. Where did such a silly idea come from?

Aristotelian logic came to dominate Western thought after the Renaissance. It was essentially a forerunner of positivism — which is supposedly based on objective conditions and scientific reasoning. “Give me the facts,” says the positivist, confidently. “Let me apply my rational brain to them. I will come up with a solution!”

This is fine, if you are building the Eiffel Tower or organizing the next church supper. But positivism falls apart when it is applied to schemes that go beyond the reach of the “herald’s cry.”

That’s what Aristotle said. He thought only a small community could work at all. Because only in a small community would all the people share more or less the same information and interests. In a large community, you can’t know things in the same direct, personal way. So it’s hard for people to work together in the same way.

In a large community, you have no idea who made your sausage or what they put in it. You have to rely on “facts” that are no longer verifiable by direct observation or personal acquaintance.

Instead, the central planners’ facts usually are nothing more than statistical mush, wishful thinking or theoretical claptrap — like Weapons of Mass Destruction, the unemployment rate and the Übermensch.

Large-scale planning fails because the facts upon which it is built are unreliable, frequently completely bogus.

And it fails because people don’t really want it.

Hidden Agenda

In a small community the planners and the people they are planning for are close enough to share the same goals. In a large community the planners are a small minority.

In a large community the planners usually have their own agenda… often a hidden one. They may call for more strict law enforcement, while getting campaign contributions from the prison industry. They may seek a cure for cancer, and depend on the pharmaceutical industry for job offers. They want a united Europe… and hope to be its head man.

But though large-scale planning provides almost countless opportunities for corruption, it’s not the dirty dealing that dooms it. Instead, it is that the planners don’t know (or care) what people really want… and don’t have the means or the information necessary to achieve it anyway.

As we have already seen, practically all the “public information” used by central planners is empty and most often misleading. But the problem is much more basic than the quality of the information or the corruption involved.

When we think of what people “want,” we are not really talking about their conscious, stated desires. We are speaking broadly of what they might be able to get… if allowed to do so… given the facts on the ground.

People in Hell may want ice cream; they won’t get it. But people will do the best they can with what they have to work with. Large-scale central planners can’t help them. Partly because they don’t know what the conditions in the man’s private Hell really are. And partly because they don’t have any ice cream.

You might better describe this process of getting as much of what you want as possible as the progress wrought by evolution, where trials and errors result in “the best we can do.”

Not perfect. Not the end of history. Just another step toward a future that is unknowable.

The Fatal Conceit

When you boil it down, large-scale central planners fail because they believe three things that aren’t true.

First, that they know current conditions (wants, desires, hopes, capabilities, resources). In other words, that they know the exact and entire present state of the community they are planning for.

Second, that they know where the community ought to go; that is, that they know what the future ought to be.

Third, that they are capable of creating the future they want.

None of those things is more than an illusion. Together, they constitute what F. A. Hayek called “the fatal conceit that man is able to shape the world around him according to his wishes.”

As to the first point, central planners cannot know current conditions because that would require an infinite amount of information. It would require “minute knowledge of a thousand particulars which will be learnt by nobody but he who has an interest in knowing them,” wrote Samuel Bailey in 1840.

The planners have nothing like that. Instead, they have a body of public knowledge, which as we have seen is nothing more than popular theories, claptrap and statistical guesswork.

As to the second point — that the central planners are blessed with some gift that tells them what the future should be for complete strangers — we pass over it without argument.

No one really believes that people in the U.S. Congress or the French National Assembly… or in the bureaucracies and think-tanks of these nations… has anything more to guide him than anyone else (which is to say only his own likes and dislikes, prejudices and fears, and self-serving ambitions).


Of course, each man always does his best, at his own level, to shape his world in a way that pleases him.

One will want a fat wife… and likely get one. One will want a fortune… and maybe get it, if he is lucky and diligent. One will want to spend his time playing golf; that too, may be within his means. Each will try. Each will win… lose… or draw, depending upon the circumstances. And the future will happen.

The central planner steps in to try to impose his own version of the future. Evolution follows its own course, as the plans of individuals and groups succeed or fail.

Where evolution is taking us, no one knows. But the large-scale central planner thinks he knows where it ought to go… and he doesn’t mind giving it a shove, disrupting the plans of millions of people in the process.

As soon as the smallest bits of time and resources are shanghaied for the central planners’ ends rather than those of individual planners, the rate of evolutionary progress slows. The trials that would have otherwise taken place are postponed or canceled. The errors that might have been revealed and corrected are not discovered. The future will have to wait.

People are easy to deceive, especially when they only have access to “public information.” Out of range of the herald’s voice, they have no more idea of what is going on than the planners themselves.

They are encouraged to believe that the collective plans are beneficial. Often, they go along with the gag — for decades — even as the evidence of their daily lives contradicts its premises and undermines its promises.

That was the story in Russia and China after the communist takeovers — where the planners’ extravagant schemes endured 70 and 30 years respectively.

But not everyone goes along. When people resist, the planner sees them as obstacles to his success. Ruthless planners then begin purges, cleansings, regulations, famines, deportations, disappearances, tortures, drone attacks and mass murders to encourage compliance.

But their plans are wrecked anyway, because not only do they retard the future, they also don’t lead to the outcome the planners expect.

Breaking a Few Eggs

Typically, the designers argue that the people must make sacrifices but that it will all come right in the end. “You can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs,” said Lenin.

People go along with breaking a few eggs (particularly if they belong to someone else) for a while. Ultimately, the problem is the omelet; it never makes it to the table. And the meal that ultimately does arrive is disgusting.

No “workers’ paradise” ever happens. The War on Drugs (or Poverty… or Crime… or Terror… or Cancer) ends in a defeat, not a victory. Unemployment does not go down. Or if any of these grand programs “succeeds,” it does so at a cost that is far out of balance with the reward.

Why do these plans fail? The simple answer is because that’s not the way the world works.

Life on Earth is not so rational that it lends itself to simpleminded, heavy-handed intervention of the naïve social engineer. Bridges are designed. So are houses. And particle accelerators. Economies are not. Neither are real languages. Customs. Markets. Love. Marriages. Children. Or any of the other really important things in life.

Not to overstate our case, however, it is also true that humans can design and achieve a certain kind of future. If the planners at the Pentagon, for example, decided that a nuclear war would be a good thing, they could bring it about. The effects would be huge. And hugely effective.

But this extreme example reveals the only kind of alternative future that the planners are capable of delivering, by pulverizing the delicate fabric of evolved civilized life.

It is a future that practically no one wants, because it means disrupting the private plans of most of the world’s people — for marriage, business, babies, baptisms, hunting trips, shopping, investment and all the other activities of normal life. Stopping those private plans means arresting the particular trials and errors of ordinary people upon which the civilized future depends.

Not all central planning produces calamities on that scale. But all, to the extent they are effective, are repulsive. The more they achieve the planners’ goals, the more they interfere with private goals… and the more they interfere with the progress of the human race.

Bill Bonner is a New York Times bestselling author and founder of Agora, one of the largest independent financial publishers in the world. If you would like to read more of Bill’s essays, sign-up for his free daily e-letter at Bill Bonner’s Diary of a Rogue Economist.


  1. Besides deconstructing their plans, one can offer a better plan of one’s own. Why not build five Ocean Villages and Clean Up Arrays located in the middle of the five largest ocean gyres?

    These voluntary communities would provide the citizens of the nation states of the world cleaner oceans for free* while also providing an opportunity for us to experience life without coercion and state force!

    Ocean Cleanup Array – Boyan Slat



    *Free service provided as long as the Ocean Villages are allowed to live autonomously. If their sovereignty was violated, the Clean Up Arrays would be turned off and even scuttled and sunk as a last resort.

  2. To fend off the extreme collectivisms of Clovers, recite for them the extreme individualisms of the wealthy psychopaths.

    Donatien Alphonse François Quotes:

    There is but one hell, and that is the folly and wickedness and spite of one’s fellows.

    So long as the laws remain such as they are loud opinion forces us to employ some discretion: but in privacy and silence let us compensate ourselves for that cruel chastity we are obliged to display in public.

    One must feel sorry for those who have strange tastes, but never insult them. Their wrong is Nature’s too; they are no more responsible for having come into the world with tendencies unlike ours than are we for being born bow-legged or well-proportioned.

    Nature, who for the perfect maintenance of the laws of her general equilibrium, has sometimes need of vices and sometimes of virtues, inspires now this impulse, now that one, in accordance with what she requires.

    Get it into your head once and for all, my simple and very fainthearted fellow, that what fools call humaneness is nothing but a weakness born of fear and egoism; that this chimerical virtue, enslaving only weak men, is unknown to those whose character is formed by stoicism, courage, and philosophy.

    Any punishment that does not correct, that can merely rouse rebellion in whoever has to endure it, is a piece of gratuitous infamy which makes those who impose it more guilty in the eyes of humanity, good sense and reason, nay a hundred times more guilty than the victim on whom the punishment is inflicted.

    It is only by enlarging the scope of one’s tastes and one’s fantasies, by sacrificing everything to pleasure, that that unfortunate individual called man, thrown despite himself into this sad world, can succeed in gathering a few roses among life’s thorns.

    Wolves which batten upon lambs, lambs consumed by wolves, the strong who immolate the weak, the weak victims of the strong: there you have Nature, there you have her intentions, there you have her scheme: a perpetual action and reaction, a host of vices, a host of virtues, in one word, a perfect equilibrium resulting from the equality of good and evil on earth.

    Are not laws dangerous which inhibit the passions? Compare the centuries of anarchy with those of the strongest legalism in any country you like and you will see that it is only when the laws are silent that the greatest actions appear.

    Woman’s destiny is to be wanton, like the bitch, the she-wolf; she must belong to all who claim her.

    Sex is as important as eating or drinking and we ought to allow the one appetite to be satisfied with as little restraint or false modesty as the other.

    Happiness lies neither in vice nor in virtue; but in the manner we appreciate the one and the other, and the choice we make pursuant to our individual organization.

    They declaim against the passions without bothering to think that it is from their flame philosophy lights its torch.

    One never weeps unless one is afraid, and that is why kings are tyrants.

    Nature does not have two voices, you know, one of them condemning all day what the other commands.

    Miserable creatures, thrown for a moment on the surface of this little pile of mud, is it decreed that one half of the flock should be the persecutor of the other? Is it for you, mankind, to pronounce on what is good and what is evil?

    Evil is a moral entity and not a created one, an eternal and not a perishable entity: it existed before the world; it constituted the monstrous, the execrable being who was also to fashion such a hideous world. It will hence exist after the creatures which people this world.

    Humane sentiments are baseless, mad, and improper; they are incredibly feeble; never do they withstand the gainsaying passions, never do they resist bare necessity.

    Lust’s passion will be served; it demands, it militates, it tyrannizes.

    The horror of wedlock, the most appalling, the most loathsome of all the bonds humankind has devised for its own discomfort and degradation.

    In order to know virtue, we must first acquaint ourselves with vice.

    My manner of thinking, so you say cannot be approved. Do you suppose I care? A poor fool indeed is he who adopts a manner of thinking for others.

    Social order at the expense of liberty is hardly a bargain.


  3. How Did the Central Planners Seize Power? Through Revolution!

    Essay by Jack London, a Socialist
    Sacramento River, California
    March 1905

    I received a letter the other day. It began, “Dear Comrade.” It ended, “Yours for the Revolution.” I replied to the letter, and my letter began, “Dear Comrade.” It ended, “Yours for the Revolution.” There are many men who begin their letters “Dear Comrade,” and end them “Yours for the Revolution. Comrades all, and revolutionists.

    These revolutionists exist in numbers which dwarf the grand armies of Napoleon and Xerxes. They are numbers not of conquest and maintenance of the established order, but of conquest and revolution. They compose, when the roll is called, a vast army Of men, who, in accordance with the conditions of today, are fighting with all their might for the conquest of the wealth of the world and for the complete overthrow of existing society.

    There has never been anything like this revolution in the history of the world. There is nothing analogous between it and the American Revolution or the French Revolution. It is unique, colossal. Other revolutions compare with it as asteroids compare with the sun. It is alone of its kind, the first world revolution in a world whose history is replete with revolutions. And not only this, for it is the first organized movement of men to become a world movement, limited only by the limits of the planet.

    This revolution is unlike all other revolutions in many respects. It is not sporadic. It is not a flame of popular discontent, arising in a day and dying down in a day. It is older than the present generation. It has a history and traditions, and a martyr-roll only less extensive possibly than the martyr-roll of Christianity. It has also a literature a myriad times more imposing, scientific, and scholarly than the literature of any previous revolution.

    They call themselves “comrades,” these men, comrades in the socialist revolution. Nor is the word empty and meaningless, coined of mere lip service. It knits men together as brothers, as men should be knit together who stand shoulder to shoulder under the red banner of revolt. This red banner, by the way, symbolizes the brotherhood of man, and does not symbolize the incendiarism that instantly connects itself with the red banner in the frightened bourgeois mind.

    The comradeship of the revolutionists is alive and warm. It passes over geographical lines, transcends race prejudice, and has even proved itself mightier than the Fourth of July, spread-eagle Americanism of our forefathers. The French socialist workingmen, the German socialist workingmen, and the Spanish socialist workingmen, when war threatens, pass resolutions declaring that as workingmen and comrades they have no quarrel with each other.

    Socialists address each other “Dear Comrades – Your government and ours have recently plunged into war to carry out their imperialistic tendencies, but for us socialists there are no boundaries, race, country, or nationality. We are comrades and brothers, and have no reason to fight. Your enemies are not the people of our nation, but of the militarism of our leaders and so-called patriotism of the common man. Patriotism and militarism are our mutual enemies.

    In January, 1905, throughout the United States the socialists held mass-meetings to express their sympathy for their struggling comrades, the revolutionists of Russia, and, more to the point, to furnish the sinews of war by collecting money and cabling it to the Russian leaders.

    The fact of this call for money, and the ready response, and the very wording of the call, make a striking and practical demonstration of the international solidarity of this world revolution: “Whatever may be the immediate results of the present revolt in Russia, the socialist propaganda in that country has received from it an impetus unparalleled in the history of modern class wars. The heroic battle for freedom is being fought almost exclusively by the Russian working-class under the intellectual leadership of Russian socialists, thus once more demonstrating the fact that the class-conscious workingmen have become the vanguard of all liberating movements of modern times.”

    We are all comrades in an organized, international, world-wide, revolutionary movement. Here is a tremendous human force. It must be reckoned with. Here is power. And here is romance – romance so colossal that it seems to be beyond the ken of ordinary mortals. These revolutionists are swayed by great passion. They have a keen sense of personal right, much of reverence for humanity, but little reverence, if any at all, for the rule of the dead. They refuse to be ruled by the dead.

    To the bourgeois mind their unbelief in the dominant conventions of the established order is startling. They laugh to scorn the sweet ideals and dear moralities of bourgeois society. They intend to destroy bourgeois society with most of its sweet ideals and dear moralities, and chief among these are those that group themselves under such heads as private ownership of capital, survival of the fittest, and patriotism – especially the banner of patriotism.

    Such an army of revolution, is a thing to make rulers and ruling classes pause and consider. The cry of this army is, “No quarter! We want all that you possess. We will be content with nothing less than all that you possess. We want in our hands the reins of power and the destiny of mankind.

    Here are our hands. They are strong hands. We are going to take your governments, your palaces, and all your purpled ease away from you, and in that day you shall work for your bread even as the peasant in the field or the starved and runty clerk in your metropolises. Here are our hands. They are strong hands.”

    Well may rulers and ruling classes pause and consider. This is revolution. And, further, these men are not an army on paper. Their fighting strength in the field is immense. Today they cast their votes in all the civilized countries of the world.

    Yesterday they were not so strong. Tomorrow they will be still stronger. And they are fighters. They love peace. They are unafraid of war. They intend nothing less than to destroy existing capitalist society and to take possession of the whole world. If the law of the land permits, they fight for this end peaceably, at the ballot-box. If the law of the land does not permit, and if they have force meted out to them, they resort to force themselves. They meet violence with violence. Their hands are strong and they are unafraid. In Russia, for instance, there is no suffrage. The government executes the revolutionists. The revolutionists kill the officers of the government. The revolutionists meet legal murder with assassination.

    Now here arises a particularly significant phase which would be well for the rulers to consider. Let me make it concrete. I am a revolutionist. Yet I am a fairly sane and normal individual. I speak, and I think, of these assassins in Russia as “my comrades.” So do all the comrades in America, and all the comrades in the world.

    Of what worth is an organized, international, revolutionary movement if our comrades are not backed up the world over? The worth is shown by the fact that we do back up the assassinations by our comrades in Russia. They are not disciples of Tolstoy, nor are we. We are revolutionists.

    Our comrades in Russia have formed what they call “The Fighting Organization.” This Fighting Organization accused, tried, found guilty, and condemned to death, one Sipiaguin, Minister of the Interior. He was shot and killed in the Maryinsky Palace. Two years later the Fighting Organization condemned to death and executed another Minister of Interior, Von Plehve. Having done so, it issued a document, dated July 29, 1904, setting forth the counts of its indictment of Von Plehve and its responsibility for the assassination. Now, and to the point, this document was sent out to the socialists of the world, and by them was published everywhere in the magazines and newspapers.

    The point is, not that the socialists of the world were unafraid to do it, not that they dared to do it, but that they did it as a matter of routine, giving publication to what may be called an official document of the international revolutionary movement.

    These are high lights upon the revolution granted, but they are also facts. And they are given to the rulers and the ruling classes, not in bravado, not to frighten them, but for them to consider more deeply the spirit and nature of this world revolution. The time has come for the revolution to demand consideration. It has fastened upon every civilized country in the world.

    As fast as a country becomes civilized, the revolution fastens upon it. With the introduction of the machine into Japan, socialism was introduced. Socialism marched into the Philippines shoulder to shoulder with the American soldiers. The echoes of the last gun had scarcely died away when socialist locals were forming in Cuba and Puerto Rico. Vastly more significant is the fact that of all the countries the revolution has fastened upon, on not one has it relaxed its grip. On the contrary, on every country its grip closes tighter year by year.

    As an active movement it began obscurely over a generation ago. In 1867, its voting strength in the world was 30,000. By 1871, its vote had increased to 1,000,000. In 1892 the socialist vote of the world was 1,798,391 ; in 1893, 2,585,898; in 1895, 3,033,718; in 1898, 4,515,591; in 1902, 5,253,054; in 1903, 6,285,374; and in the year of our Lord 1905 it passed the seven-million mark.

    Nor has this flame of revolution left the United States untouched. In 1888, there were only 2,068 socialist votes. In 1902, there were 127,713 socialist votes. And in 1904, 435,040 socialist votes were cast. What fanned this flame? Not hard times. The first four years of the twentieth century were considered prosperous years, yet in that time more than 300,000 men added themselves to the ranks of the revolutionists, flinging their defiance in the teeth of bourgeois society and taking their stand under the blood-red banner. In the state of this writer, California, one man in twelve is an avowed and registered revolutionist.

    One thing must be clearly understood. This is no spontaneous and vague uprising of a large mass of discontented and miserable people – a blind and instinctive recoil from hurt. On the contrary, the propaganda is intellectual; the movement is based upon economic necessity and is in line with social evolution; while the miserable people have not yet revolted.

    The revolutionist is no starved and diseased slave in the shambles at the bottom of the social pit, but is, in the main, a hearty, well-fed workingman, who sees the shambles waiting for him and his children and recoils from the descent. The very miserable people are too helpless to help themselves. But they are being helped, and the day is not far distant when their numbers will go to swell the ranks of the revolutionists.

    Another thing must be clearly understood. In spite of the fact that middle-class men and professional men are interested in the movement, it is nevertheless a distinctly working-class revolt. The world over, it is a working-class revolt. The workers of the world, as a class, are fighting the capitalists of the world, as a class. The so-called great middle class is a growing anomaly in the social struggle. It is a perishing class, and its historic mission of buffer between the capitalist and working classes has just about been fulfilled.

    Little remains for it but to wail as it passes into oblivion, as it has already begun to wail in accents Populistic and Jeffersonian-Democratic. The fight is on. The revolution is here now, and it is the world’s workers that are in revolt.

    Naturally the question arises: Why is this so? No mere whim of the spirit can give rise to a world revolution. Whim does not result in unanimity. There must be a deep-seated cause to make so many men of the one mind, to make them cast off allegiance to the bourgeois gods and lose faith in so fine a thing as patriotism.

    There are many counts of the indictment which the revolutionists bring against the capitalist class, but for present use only one need be stated, and it is a count to which capital has never replied and can never reply.

    The capitalist class has managed society, and its management has failed. And not only has it failed in its management, but it has failed deplorably, ignobly, horribly. The capitalist class had an opportunity such as was given no previous ruling class in the history of the world. It broke away from the rule of the old feudal aristocracy and made modern society.

    It mastered matter, organized the machinery of life, and made possible a wonderful era for mankind, wherein no creature should cry aloud because it had not enough to eat, and wherein for every child there would be opportunity for education, for intellectual and spiritual uplift. Matter being mastered, and the machinery of life organized, all this was possible. Here was the chance, God-given, and the capitalist class failed. It was blind and greedy. It prattled sweet ideals and dear moralities, rubbed its eyes not once, nor ceased one whit in its greediness, and smashed down in a failure as tremendous only as was the opportunity it had ignored.

    But all this is like so much cobwebs to the bourgeois mind. As it was blind in the past, it is blind now and cannot see nor understand. Well, then, let the indictment be stated more definitely, in terms sharp and unmistakable. In the first place, consider the caveman. He was a very simple creature. His head slanted back like an orangutan’s and he had but little more intelligence. He lived in a hostile environment, the prey of all manner of fierce life. He had no inventions nor artifices. His natural efficiency for food-getting was his power, the power of one.

    He did not even till the soil. With his natural efficiency of one, he fought off his carnivorous enemies and got himself food and shelter. He must have done all this, else he would not have multiplied and spread over the earth and sent his progeny down, generation by generation, to today become both you and me.

    The caveman, with his natural efficiency of one, got enough to eat most of the time, and no caveman went hungry all the time. Also, he lived a healthy, open-air life, loafed and rested himself, and found plenty of time in which to exercise his imagination and invent gods. That is to say, he did not have to work all his waking moments in order to get enough to eat. The child of the caveman, indeed the children of all savage peoples, have a childhood, and by that is meant a happy childhood of play and development.

    And now, how fares modern man? Consider the United States, the most prosperous and most enlightened country of the world. In the United States there are 10,000,000 people living in poverty. By poverty is meant that condition in life in which, through lack of food and adequate shelter, the mere standard of working efficiency cannot be maintained. In the United States there are 10,000,000 people who have not enough to eat. In the United States, because they have not enough to eat, there are 10,000,000 people who cannot keep the ordinary measure of strength in their bodies. This means that these 10,000,000 people are perishing, are dying, body and soul, slowly, because they have not enough to eat. All over this broad, prosperous, enlightened land, are men, women, and children who are living miserably.

    In all the great cities, where they are segregated in slum ghettos by hundreds of thousands and by millions, their misery becomes beastliness. No caveman ever starved as chronically as they starve, ever slept as vilely as they sleep, ever festered with rottenness and disease as they fester, nor ever toiled as hard and for as long hours as they toil.

    In Chicago there is a woman who toiled sixty hours per week. She was a garment worker. She sewed buttons on clothes. Among the Italian garment workers of Chicago, the average weekly wage of the dressmakers is $.60 cents, but they work every week in the year. The average weekly wage of the pants finishers in $1.31. Such wages means no childhood for the children, beastliness of living, and starvation for all.

    Unlike the caveman, modern man cannot get food and shelter whenever be feels like working for it. Modern man has first to find the work, and in this he is often unsuccessful. Then misery becomes acute. This acute misery is chronicled daily in the newspapers. Let several of the countless instances be cited.

    In New York City lived a woman, Mary Mead. She had three children: Mary, one year old; Johanna, two years old; Alice, four years old. Her husband could find no work. They starved. They were evicted from their shelter at 160 Steuben Street. Mary Mead strangled her baby, Mary, one year old; strangled Alice, four years old; failed to strangle Johanna, two years old, and then herself took poison.

    Said the father to the police: “Constant poverty had driven my wife insane. We lived at No. 160 Steuben Street until a week ago, when we were dispossessed. I could get no work. I could not even make enough to put food into our mouths. The babies grew ill and weak. My wife cried nearly all the time.”

    “So overwhelmed is the Department of Charities with tens of thousands of applications from men out of work that it finds itself unable to cope with the situation.”- New York Commercial, January 11,1905.

    In a daily paper, because he cannot get work in order to get something to eat, modern man advertises as follows:

    “Young man, good education, unable to obtain employment, will sell to physician and bacteriologist for experimental purposes all right and title to his body. Address for price, box 3466, San Francisco Examiner.”

    “Frank A. Mallin went to the central police station Wednesday night and asked to be locked up on a charge of vagrancy. He said he had been conducting an unsuccessful search for work for so long that he was sure he must be a vagrant. In any event, he was so hungry he must be fed. Police judge Graham sentenced him to ninety days’ imprisonment.” – San Francisco Examiner.

    In a room at the Soto House, 32 Fourth Street, San Francisco, was found the body of W. G. Robbins. He had turned on the gas. Also was found his diary, from which the following extracts are made:

    “March 3. – No chance of getting anything here. What will I do?
    “March 7. – Cannot find anything yet.
    “March 8. – Am living on doughnuts at five cents a day.
    “March 9. – My last quarter gone for room rent.
    “March 10. – God help me. Have only five cents left. Can get nothing to do. What next? Starvation or -? I have spent my last nickel tonight. What shall I do? Shall it be steal, beg, or die? I have never stolen, begged, or starved in all my fifty years of life, but now I am on the brink death seems the only refuge.
    “March 11. – Sick all day — burning fever this afternoon. Had nothing to eat today or since yesterday noon. My head, my head. Goodbye, all.”

    How fares the child of modern man in this most prosperous of lands? In the city of New York 50,000 children go hungry to school every morning. From the same city on January 12, a press dispatch was sent out over the country of a case reported by Dr. A. E. Daniel, of the New York Infirmary for Women and Children. The case was that of a babe, eighteen months old, who earned by its labor fifty cents per week in a tenement sweatshop.

    “On a pile of rags in a room bare of furniture and freezing cold, Mrs. Mary Gallin, dead from starvation, with an emaciated baby four months old crying at her breast, was found this morning at 513 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn, by Policeman McConnon of the Flushing Avenue Station. Huddled together for warmth in another part of the room were the father, James Gallin, and three children ranging from two to eight years of age. The children gazed at the policeman much as ravenous animals might have done. They were famished, and there was not a vestige of food in their comfortless home.” – New York Journal, January 2, 1902.

    In the United States 80,000 children are toiling out their lives in the textile mills alone. In the South they work twelve-hour shifts. They never see the day. Those on the night shift are asleep when the sun pours its life and warmth over the world, while those on the day shift are at the machines before dawn and return to their miserable dens, called “homes,” after dark. Many receive no more than ten cents a day. There are babies who work for five and six cents a day. Those who work on the night shift are often kept awake by having cold water dashed in their faces. There are children six years of age who have already to their credit eleven months’ work on the night shift. When they become sick, and are unable to rise from their beds to go to work, there are men employed to go on horseback from house to house, and cajole and bully them into arising and going to work. Ten per cent of them contract active consumption. All are puny wrecks, distorted, stunted, mind and body. Elbert Hubbard says of the child-laborers of the Southern cotton mills :

    “I thought to lift one of the little toilers to ascertain his weight. Straightaway through his thirty-five pounds of skin and bones there ran a tremor of fear, and he struggled forward to tie a broken thread. I attracted his attention by a touch, and offered him a silver dime. He looked at me dumbly from a face that might have belonged to a man of sixty, so furrowed, tightly drawn, and full of pain it was. He did – he did not know what the money was. There were dozens of such children in this particular mill. A physician who was with me said that they would all be dead probably in two years, and their places filled by others there were plenty more. Pneumonia carries off most of them. Their systems are ripe for disease, and when it comes there is no rebound – no response. Medicine simply does not act – nature is whipped, beaten, discouraged, and the child sinks into a stupor and dies.”

    So fares modern man and the child of modern man in the United States, most prosperous and enlightened of all countries on earth. It must be remembered that the instances given are instances only, but that they can be multiplied myriads of times. It must also be remembered that what is true of the United States is true of all the civilized world. Such misery was not true of the caveman. Then what has happened? Has the hostile environment of the caveman grown more hostile for his descendants? Has the caveman’s natural efficiency of one for food-getting and shelter-getting diminished in modern man to one-half or one-quarter?

    On the contrary, the hostile environment of the caveman has been destroyed. For modern man it no longer exists. All carnivorous enemies, the daily menace of the younger world, have been killed off. Many of the species of prey have become extinct. Here and there, in secluded portions of the world, still linger a few of man’s fiercer enemies. But they are far from being a menace to mankind. Modern man, when he wants recreation and change, goes to the secluded portions of the world for a hunt. Also, in idle moments, he wails regretfully at the passing of the ” big game,” which he knows in the not distant future will disappear from the earth.

    Nor since the day of the caveman has man’s efficiency for food-getting and shelter-getting diminished. It has increased a thousand fold. Since the day of the caveman, matter has been mastered. The secrets of matter have been discovered. Its laws have been formulated. Wonderful artifices have been made, and marvelous inventions, all tending to increase tremendously man’s natural efficiency of one in every food-getting, shelter-getting exertion, in farming, mining, manufacturing, transportation, and communication.

    From the caveman to the hand-workers of three generations ago, the increase in efficiency for food and shelter-getting has been very great. But in this day, by machinery, the efficiency of the hand-worker of three generations ago has in turn been increased many times. Formerly it required 200 hours of human labor to place 100 tons of ore on a railroad car. Today, aided by machinery, but two hours of human labor is required to do the same task.

    According to the Department of Labor, under the best conditions for organization in farming, labor can produce 20 bushels of wheat for 66 cents, or 1 bushel for 3 1/3 cents. This was done on a bonanza farm of 10,000 acres in California, and was the average cost of the whole product of the farm. Today 4,500,000 men, aided by machinery, turn out a product that would require the labor of 40,000,000 men if produced by hand. Professor Herzog, of Austria, says that 5,000,000 people with the machinery of today, employed at socially useful labor, would be able to supply a population of 20,000,000 people with all the necessaries and small luxuries of life by working 1 1/2 hours per day.

    This being so, matter being mastered, man’s efficiency for food- and shelter-getting being increased a thousand fold over the efficiency of the caveman, then why is it that millions of modern men live more miserably than lived the caveman? This is the question the revolutionist asks, and he asks it of the managing class, the capitalist class. The capitalist class does not answer it. The capitalist class cannot answer it.

    If modern man’s food- and shelter-getting efficiency is a thousand fold greater than that of the caveman, why, then, are there 10,000,000 people in the United States today who are not properly sheltered and properly fed? If the child of the caveman did not have to work, why, then, today, in the United States, are 80,000 children working out their lives in the textile factories alone? If the child of the caveman did not have to work, why, then, today, in the United States, are there 1,752,187 child-laborers?

    It is a true count in the indictment. The capitalist class has mismanaged, and is today mismanaging. In New York City where 50,000 children go hungry to school, there are 1,320 millionnaires. The point, however, is not that the mass of mankind is miserable because of the wealth the capitalist class has taken to itself. Far from it. The point really is that the mass of mankind is miserable, not for want of the wealth taken by the capitalist class, but for want of the wealth that was never created.

    This wealth was never created because the capitalist class managed too wastefully and irrationally. The capitalist class, blind and greedy, grasping madly, has not only not made the best of its management, but made the worst of it. It is a management prodigiously wasteful. This point cannot be emphasized too strongly.

    In face of the facts that modern man lives more wretchedly than the caveman, and that modern man’s food- and shelter-getting efficiency is a thousand fold greater than the caveman’s, no other solution is possible than that the management is prodigiously wasteful.

    With the natural resources of the world, the machinery already invented, a rational organization of production and distribution, and an equally rational elimination of waste, the able-bodied workers would not have to labor more than two or three hours per day to feed everybody, clothe everybody, house everybody, educate everybody, and give a fair measure of a few luxuries to everybody.

    There would be no more material want and wretchedness, no more children toiling out their lives, no more men and women and babes living like beasts and dying like beasts. Not only would matter be mastered, but the machine would be mastered. In such a day incentive would be finer and nobler than the incentive of to-day, which is the incentive of the stomach. No man, woman, or child would be impelled to action by an empty stomach. On the contrary, they would be impelled to action as a child in a spelling match is impelled to action, as boys and girls at games, as scientists formulating law, as inventors applying law, as artists and sculptors painting canvases and shaping clay, as poets and statesmen serving humanity by singing and by statecraft. The spiritual, intellectual, and artistic uplift consequent upon such a condition of society would be tremendous. All the human world would surge upward in a mighty wave.

    This was the opportunity available to the capitalist class. Less blindness on its part, less greediness, and a rational management, were all that was necessary. A wonderful era was possible for the human race. But the capitalist class failed. It made a shambles of civilization. Nor can the capitalist class plead not guilty. It knew of the opportunity. Its wise men told it of the opportunity, its scholars and its scientists told it of the opportunity. All that they said is there today in the books, just so much damning evidence against it. It would not listen. It was too greedy. It rose up then as it rises up today, shamelessly, in our legislative halls, and declared that profits were impossible without the toil of children and babes. It lulled its conscience to sleep with prattle of sweet ideals and dear moralities, and allowed the suffering and misery of mankind to continue and to increase. In short, the capitalist class failed to take advantage of the opportunity.

    But the opportunity is still here. The capitalist class has been tried and found wanting. Remains the working-class to see what it can do with the opportunity. “But the working-class is incapable,” says the capitalist class. “What do you know about it?” the working-class replies. “Because you have failed is no reason that we shall fail. Furthermore, we are going to have a try at it, anyway. Millions of us say so. And what have you to say to that?”

    And what can the capitalist class say? Grant the incapacity of the working-class. Grant that the indictment and the argument of the revolutionists are all wrong. The many revolutionists still remain. Their existence is a fact. Their belief in their capacity, and in their indictment and their argument, is a fact. Their constant growth is a fact. Their intention to destroy present-day society is a fact, as is also their intention to take possession of the world with all its wealth and machinery and governments. Moreover, it is a fact that the working-class is vastly larger than the capitalist class.

    The revolution is a revolution of the working-class. How can the capitalist class, in the minority, stem this tide of revolution? What has it to offer? What does it offer? Employers’ associations, injunctions, civil suits for plundering of the treasuries of the labor unions, clamor and combination for the open shop, bitter and shameless opposition to the eight-hour day, strong efforts to defeat all reform child-labor bills, graft in every municipal council, strong lobbies and bribery in every legislature for the purchase of capitalist legislation, bayonets, machine-guns, policemen’s clubs, professional strike-breakers, and armed Pinkertons – these are the things the capitalist class dumps in front of the tide of revolution, as though, somehow it will hold the waters back.

    The capitalist class is as blind today to the menace of the revolution as it was blind in the past to its own God-given opportunity. It cannot see how precarious is its position, cannot comprehend the power and the portent of the revolution. It goes on its placid way, prattling sweet ideals and dear moralities, and scrambling sordidly for material benefits.

    No overthrown ruler or class in the past ever considered the revolution that overthrew it, and so it is with the capitalist class of today. Instead of compromising, instead of lengthening its lease of life by conciliation and by removal of some of the harsher oppressions of the working-class, it antagonizes the working-class, drives the working-class into revolution. Every broken strike in recent years, every legally plundered trades-union treasury, every closed shop made into an open shop, has driven the members of the working-class directly hurt over to socialism by hundreds and thousands.

    Show a workingman that his union fails and he becomes a revolutionist. Break a strike with an injunction or bankrupt a union with a civil suit, and the workingmen hurt thereby listen to the siren song of the socialist and are lost forever to the political capitalist parties.

    Antagonism never lulled revolution, and antagonism is about all the capitalist class offers. It is true, it offers some few antiquated notions which were very effective in the past, but which are no longer effective. Fourth-of-July liberty in terms of the Declaration of Independence and of the French Encyclopedists is scarcely sufficient today. It does not appeal to the workingman who has had his head broken by a policeman’s club, his union treasury bankrupted by a court decision, or his job taken away from him by a labor-saving invention.

    Nor does the Constitution of the United States appear so glorious and constitutional to the workingman who has experienced a bullpen or been unconstitutionally deported from Colorado. Nor are this particular workingman’s hurt feelings soothed by reading in the newspapers that both the bullpen and the deportation were preeminently just, legal, and constitutional. “To hell, then, with the Constitution!” says he, and another revolutionist has been made by the capitalist class.

    In short, so blind is the capitalist class that it does nothing to lengthen its lease of life, while it does everything to shorten it. The capitalist class offers nothing that is clean, noble, and alive. The revolutionists offer everything that is clean, noble, and alive. They offer service, unselfishness, sacrifice, martyrdom – the things that sting awake the imagination of the people, touching their hearts with the fervor that arises out of the impulse toward good and which is essentially religious in its nature.

    But the revolutionists blow hot and blow cold. They offer facts and statistics, economics and scientific arguments. If the workingman be merely selfish, the revolutionists show him, mathematically demonstrate to him, that his condition will be bettered by the revolution. If the workingman be the higher type, moved by impulses toward right conduct, if he have soul and spirit, the revolutionists offer him the things of the soul and the spirit, the tremendous things that cannot be measured by dollars and cents, nor be held down by dollars and cents. The revolutionist cries Out upon wrong and injustice, and preaches righteousness. And, most potent of all, he sings the eternal song of human freedom – a song of all lands and all tongues and all time.

    Few members of the capitalist class see the revolution. Most of them are too ignorant, and many are too afraid to see it. It is the same old story of every perishing ruling class in the world’s history. Fat with power and possession, drunken with success, and made soft by surfeit and by cessation of struggle, they are like the drones clustered about the honey vats when the worker bees spring upon them to end their rotund existence.

    President Theodore Roosevelt vaguely sees the revolution, is frightened by it, and recoils from seeing it. As he says: “Above all, we need to remember that any kind of class animosity in the political world is, if possible, even more wicked, even more destructive to national welfare, than sectional, race, or religious animosity.”

    Class animosity in the political world, President Roosevelt maintains, is wicked. But class animosity in the political world is the preachment of the revolutionists. “Let the class wars in the industrial world continue,” they say, “but extend the class war to the political world. So far as this struggle is concerned, there is no good capitalist and no bad workingman. Every capitalist is your enemy and every workingman is your friend.”

    Here is class animosity in the political world with a vengeance. And here is revolution. In 1888 there were only 2000 revolutionists of this type in the United States; in 1900 there were 127,000 revolutionists; in 1904, 435,000 revolutionists. Wickedness of the President Roosevelt definition evidently flourishes and increases in the United States. Quite so, for it is the revolution that flourishes and increases.

    Here and there a member of the capitalist class catches a clear glimpse of the revolution, and raises a warning cry. But his class does not heed. President Eliot of Harvard raised such a cry: “I am forced to believe there is a present danger of socialism never before so imminent in America in so dangerous a form, because never before imminent in so well organized a form. The danger lies in the obtaining control of the trades-unions by the socialists.”

    The capitalist employers, instead of giving heed to the warnings, are perfecting their strikebreaking organization and combining more strongly than ever for a general assault upon that dearest of all things to the trades unions, – the closed shop. In so far as this assault succeeds, by just that much will the capitalist class shorten its lease of life. It is the old story, over again and over again. The drunken drones still cluster greedily about the honey vats.

    Possibly one of the most amusing spectacles of today is the attitude of the American press toward the revolution. It is also a pathetic spectacle. It compels the onlooker to be aware of a distinct loss of pride in his species. Dogmatic utterance from the mouth of ignorance may make gods laugh, but it should make men weep.

    The American editors are quite impressive about it. The old “divide-up,” “men-are-not- born-free-and-equal” propositions are enunciated gravely and sagely, as things white-hot and new from the forge of human wisdom. Their feeble vaporings show no more than a schoolboy’s comprehension of the nature of the revolution. Parasites themselves on the capitalist class, serving the capitalist class by molding public opinion, they, too, cluster drunkenly about the honey vats.

    Though this is true only of the large majority of American editors. Here and there an occasional editor does see clearly – and in his case, ruled by stomach-incentive, is usually afraid to say what he thinks about it. So far as the science and the sociology of the revolution are concerned, the average editor is a generation or so behind the facts. He is intellectually slothful, accepts no facts until they are accepted by the majority, and prides himself upon his conservatism. He is an instinctive optimist, prone to believe that what ought to be, is. The revolutionist gave this up long ago, and believes not that what ought to be, is, but what is, is, and that it may not be what it ought to be at all.

    Now and then, rubbing his eyes vigorously, an editor catches a sudden glimpse of the revolution and breaks out in naive volubility, as, for instance, the one who wrote the following in the Chicago Chronicle: “American socialists are revolutionists. They know that they are revolutionists. It is high time that other people should appreciate the fact.” A white-hot, brand-new discovery, and he proceeded to shout it out from the housetops that we were revolutionists. Why, it is just what we have been doing all these years – shouting it out from the housetops that we are revolutionists, and stop us who can.

    The time should be past for the mental attitude: “Revolution is atrocious. Sir, there is no revolution.” Likewise should the time be past for that other familiar attitude: “Socialism is slavery. Sir, it will never be.” It is no longer a question of dialectics, theories, and dreams. There is no question about it. The revolution is a fact. It is here now. Revolutionists, organized, working day and night, are preaching the revolution – that passionate gospel, the Brotherhood of Man. Not only is it a coldblooded economic propaganda, but it is in essence a religious propaganda with a fervor in it of Paul and Christ.

    The capitalist class has been indicted. It has failed in its management and its management is to be taken away from it. The revolutionist men of the working-class say that they are going to get the rest of the working-class to join with them and take the management away. The revolution is here, now. Stop it who can.

    To Build A Fire – Jack London, 1908

    Semper Idem – Jack London, 1911

    The Iron Heel – Jack London, 1908

    In the swarmings and ravings of the Clover hive, there are accusations that must be parsed and addressed, else the Clovers will further destroy what little remains of our civilization.

  4. Roosevelt Gets Served In Hitler’s Speech

    Roosevelt was the Bloomberg Asshole of his day. He was worth $60 million at the time of this speech, which is equivalent to $950 million today.

    • Which might explain why he was so ready to send other people off to die for his machinations. That corrupt cripple should have been wheeled into an empty elevator shaft.

    • Well certainly can see the parallels- they both supported increased govt spening both stayed on longer than they were supposed to……….


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here