Sociocracy
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Sociocracy

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Slightly abbreviated text from: ...

Slightly abbreviated text from:
Lester Frank Ward, "The Psychic Factors of Civilization",
chap. 38, pp. 313-330, Boston, U.S.A., Ginn & Company Publishers, 1893,
as reprinted in:
John Buck and Sharon Villines, "We the People: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy", app. A, Washington, DC, U.S.A.,
Sociocracy.Info Press, 2007 (http://www.sociocracy.info).

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Sociocracy Sociocracy Document Transcript

  • and equitable distribution of wealth. Today, whenSociocracy mental force is everything, and physical force is nothing, it is powerless to accomplish this. ThisLester Frank Ward (1841-1913) alone proves that government needs to be strengthened in its primary quality - the protectionThe world, having passed through the stages of of society. There is no reasoning that applies to oneautocracy and aristocracy into the stage of demo- kind of protection that does not apply equally tocracy, has, by a natural reaction against personal the other. It is utterly illogical to say that aggran-power, so far minimized the governmental influ- dizement by physical force should be forbiddenence that the same spirit which formerly used gov- while aggrandizement by mental force or legal fic-ernment to advance self is now ushering in a fifth tion should be permitted. It is absurd to claim thatstage, viz., that of plutocracy, which thrives well in injustice committed by muscle should be regulated,connection with a weak democracy or physiocracy, while that committed by brain should be unre-and aims to supersede it entirely. Its strongest hold strained.is the widespread distrust of all government, and itleaves no stone unturned to fan the flame of misar- While the modern plutocracy is not a form of gov-chy. Instead of demanding more and stronger gov- ernment in the same sense that the other formsernment it demands less and feebler. Shrewdly mentioned are, it is, nevertheless, easy to see thatclamoring for individual liberty, it perpetually its power is as great as any government has everholds up the outrages committed by governments wielded. The test of governmental power is usuallyin their autocratic and aristocratic stages, and the manner in which it taxes the people, and thefalsely insists that there is imminent danger of their strongest indictments ever drawn up against thereënactment. Laissez-faire and the most extreme in- worst forms of tyranny have been those which re-dividualism, bordering on practical anarchy in all cited their oppressive methods of extorting tribute.except the enforcement of existing proprietary But tithes are regarded as oppressive, and a fourthrights, are loudly advocated, and the public mind is part of the yield of any industry would justify athus blinded to the real condition of things. [...] revolt. Yet today there are many commodities for which the people pay two and three times as muchThe great evils under which society now labors as would cover the cost of production, transporta-have grown up during the progress of intellectual tion, and exchange at fair wages and fair profits.supremacy. They have crept in stealthily during the The monopolies in many lines actually tax the con-gradual encroachment of organized cunning upon sumer from 25 to 75 per cent of the real value of thethe domain of brute force. Over that vanishing do- goods. Imagine an excise tax that should approachmain, government retains its power, but it is still these figures! [... U]nder the operation of eitherpowerless in the expanding and now all-embracing monopoly or aggressive competition the price offield of psychic influence. No one ever claimed that everything is pushed up to the maximum limit thatin the trial of physical strength the booty should will be paid for the commodity in profitable quanti-fall to the strongest. In all such cases the arm of ties, and this wholly irrespective of the cost of pro-government is stretched out and justice is enforced. duction. No government in the world has now, orBut in those manifold, and far more unequal strug- ever had, the power to enforce such an extortion asgles now going on between mind and mind, or this. It is a governing power in the interest of fa-rather between the individual and an organized vored individuals, which exceeds that of the mostsystem, the product of ages of thought, it is cus- powerful monarch or despot that ever wielded atomary to say that such matters must be left to scepter.regulate themselves, and that the fittest must beallowed to survive. Yet, to anyone who will can- What then is the remedy? How can society escapedidly consider the matter, it must be clear that the this last conquest of power by the egoistic intellect?first and principal acts of government openly and It has overthrown the rule of brute force by the es-avowedly prevented, through forcible interference, tablishment of government. It has supplantedthe natural results of all trials of physical strength. autocracy by aristocracy and this by democracy,These much-talked-of laws of nature are violated and now it finds itself in the coils of plutocracy.every time the highway robber is arrested and sent Can it escape? Must it go back to autocracy for ato jail. power sufficient to cope with plutocracy? No auto- crat ever had a tithe of that power. Shall it then letPrimitive government, when only brute force was itself be crushed? It need not. There is one poweremployed, was strong enough to secure the just and only one that is greater than that which now 1
  • chiefly rules society. That power is society itself. looked upon as the action of society. At least, thereThere is one form of government that is stronger is no denying the right of the majority to act forthan autocracy or aristocracy or democracy, or even society, for to do this would involve either the de-plutocracy, and that is sociocracy. nial of the right of government to act at all, or the admission of the right of a minority to act for soci-The individual has reigned long enough. The day ety. But a majority acting for society is a differenthas come for society to take its affairs into its own thing from society acting for itself, even though, ashands and shape its own destinies. The individual must always be the case, it acts through an agencyhas acted as best he could. He has acted in the only chosen by its members. All democratic govern-way he could. With a consciousness, will, and intel- ments are largely party governments. The electorslect of his own he could do nothing else than pur- range themselves on one side or the other of somesue his natural ends. He should not be denounced party line, the winning side considers itself thenor called any names. He should not even be state as much as Louis the Fourteenth did. The los-blamed. Nay, he should be praised, and even imi- ing party usually then regards the government astated. Society should learn its great lesson from something alien to it and hostile, like an invader,him, should follow the path he has so clearly laid and thinks of nothing but to gain strength enoughout that leads to success. It should imagine itself an to overthrow it at the next opportunity. While vari-individual, with all the interests of an individual, ous issues are always brought forward and de-and becoming fully conscious of these interests it fended or attacked, it is obvious to the looker-onshould pursue them with the same indomitable will that the contestants care nothing for these, andwith which the individual pursues his interests. merely use them to gain an advantage and win anNot only this, it must be guided, as he is guided, by election.the social intellect, armed with all the knowledgethat all individuals combined, with so great labor, From the standpoint of society this is childs play.zeal, and talent have placed in its possession, con- A very slight awakening of the social consciousnessstituting the social intelligence. will banish it and substitute something more busi- ness-like. Once get rid of this puerile gaming spiritSociocracy will differ from all other forms of gov- and have attention drawn to the real interests ofernment that have been devised, and yet that dif- society, and it will be seen that upon nearly all im-ference will not be so radical as to require a revolu- portant questions all parties and all citizens aretion. Just as absolute monarchy passed impercepti- agreed, and that there is no need of this partisanbly into limited monarchy, and this, in many states strain upon the public energies. This is clearlywithout even a change of name has passed into shown at every change in the party complexion ofmore or less pure democracy, so democracy is ca- the government. The victorious party which haspable of passing as smoothly into sociocracy, and been denouncing the government merely because itwithout taking on this unfamiliar name or chang- was in the hands of its political opponents boastsing that by which it is now known. For, though that it is going to revolutionize the country in theparadoxical, democracy, which is now the weakest interest of good government, but the moment itof all forms of government, at least in the control of comes into power and feels the weight of nationalits own internal elements, is capable of becoming responsibility it finds that it has little to do butthe strongest. Indeed, none of the other forms of carry out the laws in the same way that its prede-government would be capable of passing directly cessors had been doing.into a government by society. Democracy is a phasethrough which they must first pass on any route There is a vast difference between all this outwardthat leads to the ultimate social stage which all show of partisanship and advocacy of so-calledgovernments must eventually attain if they persist. principles, and attention to the real interests and necessary business of the nation, which latter isHow then, it may be asked, do democracy and so- what the government must do. It is a social duty.ciocracy differ? How does society differ from the The pressure which is brought to enforce it is thepeople? If the phrase “the people” really meant the power of the social will. But in the factitious ex-people, the difference would be less. But that shib- citement of partisan struggles where professionalboleth of democratic states, where it means any- politicians and demagogues on the one hand, andthing at all that can be described or defined, stands the agents of plutocracy on the other, are shoutingsimply for the majority of qualified electors, no discordantly in the ears of the people, the real in-matter how small that majority may be. There is a terests of society are, temporarily at least, lost sightsense in which the action of a majority may be of, clouded and obscured, and men lose their grasp 2
  • on the real issues, forget even their own best inter- The individual cannot correct this state of things.ests, which, however selfish, would be a far safer No democracy can correct it. But a government thatguide, and the general result usually is that these really represented the interests of society would noare neglected and nations continue in the hands of more tolerate it than an individual would tolerate amere politicians who are easily managed by the continual extortion of money on the part of anothershrewd representatives of wealth. without an equivalent.Sociocracy will change all this. Irrelevant issues And so it would be throughout. Society would in-will be laid aside. The important objects upon quire in a business way without fear, favor, or bias,which all but an interested few are agreed will re- into everything that concerned its welfare, and if itceive their proper degree of attention, and meas- found obstacles it would remove them, and if itures will be considered in a non-partisan spirit with found opportunities it would improve them. In athe sole purpose of securing these objects. Take as word, society would do under the same circum-an illustration the postal telegraph question. No stances just what an intelligent individual wouldone not a stockholder in an existing telegraph com- do. It would further, in all possible ways, its ownpany would prefer to pay twenty-five cents for a interests.message if he could send it for ten cents. Where isthe room for discussing a question of this nature? I anticipate the objection that this is an ideal state ofWhat society wants is the cheapest possible system. things, and that it has never been attained by anyIt wants to know with certainty whether a national people, and to all appearances never can be. Nopostal telegraph system would secure this univer- fair-minded critic will, however, add the customarysally desired object. It is to be expected that the objection that is raised, not wholly without truth, toagents of the present telegraph companies would all socialistic schemes, that they presuppose atry to show that it would not succeed. [...] But why change in “human nature.” Because in the trans-be influenced by the interests of such a small num- formation here foreshadowed the permanence ofber of persons, however worthy, when all the rest all the mental attributes is postulated, and I haveof mankind are interested in the opposite solution? not only refrained from dwelling upon the moralThe investigation should be a disinterested and progress of the world, but have not even enumer-strictly scientific one, and should actually settle the ated among the social forces the power of sympa-question in one way or the other. If it was found to thy as a factor in civilization. I recognize this factorbe a real benefit, the system should be adopted. as one of the derivative ones, destined to performThere are today a great number of these strictly an important part, but I have preferred to rest thesocial questions before the American people, ques- case upon the primary and original egoistic influ-tions which concern every citizen in the country, ences, believing that neither meliorism nor socio-and whose solution would doubtless profoundly cracy is dependent upon any sentiment, or uponaffect the state of civilization attainable on this con- altruistic props for its support. At least the proofstinent. Not only is it impossible to secure this, but it will be stronger if none of these aids are called in,is impossible to secure an investigation of them on and if they can be shown to have a legitimate influ-their real merits. The same is true of other coun- ence, this is only so much added to the weight oftries, and in general the prevailing democracies of evidence.the world are incompetent to deal with problems of To the other charge the answer is that ideals aresocial welfare. necessary, and also that no ideal is ever fully real-[... T]he prices of most of the staple commodities ized. If it can be shown that society is actually mov-consumed by mankind have no necessary relation ing toward any ideal the ultimate substantial reali-to the cost of producing them and placing them in zation of that ideal is as good as proved. The proofsthe hands of the consumer. It is always the highest of such a movement in society today are abundant.price that the consumer will pay rather than do In many countries the encroachments of egoisticwithout. Let us suppose that price to be on an aver- individualism have been checked at a number ofage double what it would cost to produce, trans- important points. In this country alarm has beenport, exchange, and deliver the goods, allowing in taken in good earnest at the march of plutocracyeach of these transactions a fair compensation for under the protection of democracy. Party lines areall services rendered. Is there any member of soci- giving way and there are unmistakable indicationsety who would prefer to pay two dollars for what that a large proportion of the people are becomingis thus fairly worth only one? Is there any sane seriously interested in the social progress of theground for arguing such a question? Certainly not. country. For the first time in the history of political 3
  • parties there has been formed a distinctively indus- not go into the water until we have learned totrial party which possesses all the elements of per- swim. This, however, suggests the true method ofmanence and may soon be a controlling factor in solving such questions. One learns to swim by aAmerican politics. Though this may not as yet series of trials, and society can well afford to trypresage a great social revolution, still it is precisely experiments in certain directions and note the re-the way in which a reform in the direction indi- sults. There are, however, other methods, such ascated should be expected to originate. But whether careful estimates of the costs and accurate calcula-the present movement prove enduring or ephem- tions of the effect based on the uniform laws of so-eral, the seeds of reform have been sown broadcast cial phenomena. Trial is the ultimate test of scien-throughout the land, and sooner or later they must tific theory thus formed, and may, in social as inspring up, grow, and bear their fruit. physical science, either establish or overthrow hy- potheses. But in social science, no less than in otherFor a long time to come social action must be branches of science, the working hypothesis mustchiefly negative and be confined to the removal of always be the chief instrument of successful re-evils that exist, such as have been pointed out in search.these pages, but a positive stage will ultimately bereached in which society will consider and adopt Until the scientific stage is reached, and as a neces-measures for its own advancement. The question of sary introduction to it, social problems may prop-the respective provinces of social action and indi- erly be clearly stated and such general considera-vidual action cannot be entered into here at length, tions brought forward as have a direct bearingbut it is certain that the former will continue to en- upon them. I know of no attempts of this naturecroach upon the latter so long as such encroach- which I can more warmly recommend than thosement is a public benefit. There is one large field in made by John Stuart Mill in his little work On Lib-which there is no question on this point, viz., the erty, and in his Chapters on Socialism, of which thefield covered by what, in modern economic par- latter appeared posthumously. They are in markedlance, is called “natural monopoly.” The arguments contrast, by their all-sided wisdom, with the in-are too familiar to demand restatement here, and tensely one-sided writings of Herbert Spencer onthe movement is already so well under way that substantially the same subject; and yet the twothere is little need of further argument. As to what authors are obviously at one on the main pointslies beyond this, however, there is room for much discussed. This candid statement of the true claimsdiscussion and honest difference of opinion. This is of the laissez-faire school is perfectly legitimate.because there has been so little induction. It is the Equally so are like candid presentations of the op-special characteristic of the form of government posite side of the question. The more light that canthat I have called sociocracy, resting as it does, di- be shed on all sides the better, but in order really torectly upon the science of sociology, to investigate elucidate social problems it must be the dry light ofthe facts bearing on every, subject, not for the pur- science, as little influenced by feeling as though itpose of depriving any class of citizens of the oppor- were the inhabitants of Jupiters moons, instead oftunity to benefit themselves, but purely and solely those of this planet, that were under the field of thefor the purpose of ascertaining what is for the best intellectual telescope.interests of society at large.The socialistic arguments in favor of society takingupon itself the entire industrial operations of theworld have never seemed to me conclusive, chieflybecause they have consisted so largely of pure the-ory and a priori deductions. Any one who has be- Slightly abbreviated text from: Lester Frank Ward,come imbued by the pursuit of some special branch "The Psychic Factors of Civilization", chap. 38, pp. 313-of science with the nature of scientific evidence re- 330, (PDF: http://www.webcitation.org/5nnPfDdEo),quires the presentation of such evidence before he Boston, U.S.A., Ginn & Company Publishers, 1893.can accept conclusions in any other department.And this should be the attitude of all in relation to Reprinted in: John Buck und Sharon Villines,these broader questions of social phenomena. The „We the People: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy“true economist can scarcely go farther than to say (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0979282705), appendix A,that a given question is an open one, and that he Washington, DC, U.S.A., Sociocracy.Info Press, 2007will be ready to accept the logic of facts when these (http://www.sociocracy.info).are brought forward. I do not mean that we must 4