More About Freedom of Access

ONE OR TWO POINTS NEED TO BE ADDED to the Freedom of Access article in ANARCHY 17.

Naturally I wrote to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Ltd. (of Sydney, NSW) to ask for information about the free passenger railway operated by them in Fiji; but I stupidly sent my letter by surface mail and the Company's (air-mailed) reply did not arrive until ANARCHY 17 was on the press. Their statement tends to confirm and amplify the account of the railway I put together from other sources, although it makes nonsense of my bad guess about "the old Fijians who insisted on a free passenger service as a condition of a railway licence."

They say that "The agreement between the Fiji Government and the C.S.R. Co. Ltd. to run the free railway service is covered by the Rarawaif/Kavanagasau Ordinance. Originally this Ordinance applied to the railway between Rarawai and Navakai in Nadi where the service commenced in 1905 ... Under the Ordinance the company is entitled to charge fares but has never done so. There is no friction between the company and the Fijian public. In fact many people use the train for joy-riding. The 'Free Train', which runs twice a week all the year round, contains seating for about 120 passengers. The train is usually full when it leaves Lautoka but not many passengers travel the full distance."

For the record, control of the free railway will shortly devolve on a wholly-owned subsidiary of C.S.R., South Pacific Sugar Mills Ltd., registered in Fiji last December.

A correspondent tells me sharply that people do not usually remain honest in times of shortage of food, offering as an example the rationing period of the 1939-45 war, when most people (not she, my correspondent modestly adds) dealt on the black market occasionally. But my contention was that people have the sense to behave responsibly in a free access situation, which has as little to do with law-abiding citizenship as initiative has to do with obedience. Perhaps I should have avoided the word "honest".

In times of genuine shortage, I suppose, money (supplemented if necessary by rationing) is useful to those who control the available wealth, enabling them to apportion the wealth to their best advantage more efficiently and humanely than either barter or physical violence. But abundance is now a technological possibility. Indeed, in the nation which is technically most advanced, the United States, there is a perpetual struggle to avoid abundance.

"Built-in obsolescence" has been the policy of American capital-goods manufacturers for over thirty years, and the Federal Tax Depredation Tables have this summer been revised, to presume that things wear out quicker now than they have ever done. Old cars have no commercial value, and are simply abandoned in huge "automobile dumps" on the outskirts of all large cities. Most manufacturers of consumer goods appropriate half their net profits for advertising, largely in the hope of creating new markets and new needs: the two-car family, the swimming-bath and fall-out shelter in every house, the television set in every room. Grain for which there is no market is bought out of taxes and stored or dumped. There are immense war preparations.

The main purpose of all this is to create shortages artificially, because buying and selling is useless except in times of shortage, and the whole social set-up depends on the rate of buying and selling. In the midst of all this affluence, therefore, various classes of people who do not use money much, like the Pueblo Indians, can live in conditions as poor as any in Southern Europe. And there is the dreadful paradoxical danger that the poor will increase in number as fewer and fewer man-hours produce more and more wealth.

President Kennedy has recently observed that in order to keep the increasing population in the buying-and-selling circle (those were not his exact words) the United States "must find twenty-five thousand new jobs a week" (those were). It has been calculated that when the ''population curve" meets the "automation curve", the number of new jobs needed per week will jump to fifty thousand, then rapidly increase to two hundred thousand.

The introduction of the twenty-hour week has been recommended "as a first step" towards meeting this need, but it is urged that this would mean a massive crime wave through teenagers seeking amusement in the streets. (Surely the same people said the same thing about the ten-hour day?). I have not heard so far of an official recommending free access to water, gas, transport, bread, milk, vegetables, sugar or other abundant commodities, so that unemployment need not mean misery; but it may soon happen. The Soviet Union has already promised free water, gas and heating at some unspecified date after 1980, and the United Kingdom has already tried free access to medical supplies advised by physicians, for a couple of years, before the Labour government imposed the first NHS charges.

But freedom of access will always be opposed, with sincere moral fervour, by the lovers of government, the unhappy wretches who long to command and the poor weaklings who long to obey. For the introduction of freedom of access weakens the system of wages and trade, which is the economic foundation of the state, and the evidence of freedom of access in practice weakens the myth of Original Sin, which is the main argument for the state's existence.

Eric Hughes

IN DONALD ROOUM'S EXCELLENT ARTICLE on Freedom of Access, we read the opening statement, "The greatest obstacle to anarchism is the Doctrine of Original Sin". If anarchism is taken to mean the possibility of a free and perfect society without the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit, then this is certainly true, Original Sin, and Sin in general, is the greatest obstacle to the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. But the positive aspect of the Gospel is the victory over sin. The "doctrine of original sin" on the other hand, is a proposition of theological science which can be verified by a study of history or an empirical investigation of contemporary humanity. The doctrine is clearly stated in Article 9 of the 39 articles of the Church of England. On the empirical side, Herbert Butterfield's Christianity and History should be consulted. He concludes "What history does is rather to uncover man's universal sin." We are critical of giving power to any section of the community because, due to the tendency to selfishness (power, wealth, etc.), it will be abused. This applies to priestly hierarchies and modern states. Eltzbacher clearly shows (Anarchism, p.201) that anarchistic teachings have in common only this, "that they negate the State for our future."

Donald Rooum writes that "most if not all individuals are inherently anti-social". It is this self-centred bias in all of us, which we inherit from our parents, which is known as original sin. The selfish spirit causes much of the trouble in human relations. For example, industry, which has as its true purpose the efficient satisfaction of human needs, becomes a battle-ground of selfish interests. Industrial democracy is necessary because of original sin. It is equally true that we are born with mutual aid potentialities. Open access systems are based on natural common sense and co-operation. They do not eradicate original sin, but let us have more of them as natural improvements. (Most of us have also had the experience of lending books to friends who never return them even after repeated requests).

Donald Rooum comments: An alternative way of putting "most if not all individuals are inherently anti-social" would be "there is something socially harmful about selfishness." I described this belief as "a bit of the amorphous body of nonsense which any fool knows is true." That Eric Hughes now writes as if I believed it myself, shows that I failed to make my meaning clear.

Empirical evidence tends to show that humans have inherent urges to socially useful behaviour even stronger than those of other gregarious vertebrates, and that much misery results from individuals repressing urges and trying to negate themselves. One is justified, therefore, in supposing that if people concentrated on self-gratification, society might be happier and more harmonious. Anarchism is the striving, not towards the Kingdom of Heaven, but towards a society of sovereign individuals; its greatest obstacle is the pernicious nonsense which makes individuals despise themselves.

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Sep 5 2016 23:15


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