The World of Tomorrow from Yesterday

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” ~ Mark Twain

Would it surprise any of you if I told you The Venus Project is over a century old? Okay, well not The Venus Project specifically, but the notion of a centrally planned and hyper-efficient city, or collective of planned cities, with an omniscient and benevolent central authority with a stated purpose of promoting minimal environmental impact, and equality for all peoples? It is of course a bold claim that any one individual holds the proper socio-economic algorithm to fulfill, or even orchestrate such an endeavor, but that hasn’t stopped some from advocating for such a system.

MetropolisBefore Jacque Fresco and his Venus Project, there was another visionary building the world of tomorrow, King C. Gillette. If you read the article I published last week here on Individuals Talking Back, you’ll remember Gillette was the safety razor magnate and self-proclaimed Socialist Utopian that planned to build the city Metropolis atop Niagara Falls. In his book The Human Drift (1894), Gillette describes in detail his vision for the mega-city that will house all 60 million or so North Americans, bringing the population under one common organization for the purpose of eradicating poverty and sparing the environment. The city was laid out to house the masses in neatly constructed apartments that wasted no space, would be positioned in short distance from each factory that was required to produce the necessities of the population, and were even made entirely out of porcelain for ease of cleaning.

In another work of Gillette, World Corporation (1910), he further describes how the organization would come to oversee the development of Metropolis and ensuring that all of the world’s population would participate in the vision, which by the time of his writing he believed there would be a few strategically placed cities similar to Metropolis to incorporate the entirety of the world. The means by which he imagined the world would be brought under the organizational fold, was through The World Corporation, which he filed with the state of Arizona in June of the same year as the book’s publication. The sole purpose of The World Corporation was to purchase all other businesses, lands, capital, patents and any other rights throughout the world. Once the corporation was successful in acquiring the world’s assets, it would be understood that they would also then have all of the world’s inhabitants in the corporations employ. With a monopoly on world’s employment, The World Corporation would then be able to start ushering people into roles in constructing the Metropolis, assigning living quarters, and job placement based on the assessed skills of their new employees, and what was best for society, rather, the corporation.

The Venus ProjectMany of the advocates of the modern Venus Project would scoff at the notion of a one world corporation. The idea of a board of directors and a managerial hierarchy having a monopoly on employment, in effect holding the livelihood of an individual hostage by threat of termination from the only employer in the world for lack of compliance, would seem, and is, appalling. However, while most of the proponents of The Venus Project do not support corporations, let alone a corporation with a monopoly on employment, they are quick to advocate another form of monopoly, even if it is not viewed as one from their perspective.

One of key tenants of The Venus Project is the Resource-Based Economy. The projects founder Jacque Fresco has claimed “that our current practice of ‘rationing’ resources through a price system method is irrelevant and counterproductive to our survival”, and so the plan of The Venus Project is to take account of the entirety of the world’s natural resources, and through the use of current, yet underused technologies, use a computer algorithm that best determines the use of said resources. Though a seemingly insurmountable task, I will not discount the goal as impossible, but it does raise a concern for me. How is it that The Venus Project intends to first, take account of all existing natural resources, and second, once they are accounted for, how does the project intend to maintain their accountability, and presumably, their use?

The issue of monopoly control of the world’s natural resources as a similarity to the monopoly The World Corporation hoped to have over employment aside, the Resource-Based Economy seems to create a stark contradiction between its practicality and another one of the stated principals of an early and significant supporter of the project, The Zeitgeist Movement, which claims that The Venus Project must be adopted by individuals voluntarily. The obvious contradiction being that the project is to be accepted voluntarily, all the while the entirety of the world’s resources are controlled by a central authority. This contradiction could be reconciled, if the assessment and acquisition of the world’s resources were held off until every last individual’s accepting of the project by voluntary means, but that would also necessitate that those accepting the projects authority, surrender any future claim on any resources whatsoever, lest they remove a resource from the central authorities purview, rendering an inaccurate assessment of available global natural resources.

The problem with, I’ll say it, Utopian plans is that they have no regard for the individual. One man’s utopia is another man’s hell. We each have our own subjective preferences, and while you may initially agree with one of these grand plans, the moment you have a dissenting position, it jeopardizes the plan’s continued existence, and those who remain loyal to the plan are left with a decision on what to do with you, the dissenter.

Voluntaryist ImageWhile centrally planned and compulsory schemes are antithetical to individual liberty, that doesn’t mean we are doomed to a polluted world full of exploitation and poverty. When human ingenuity is left to its own devices, free of coercion, those concerned with the environment and eradicating poverty will make conscious choices with how to spend their time, energy, and resources. The demand created by these concerned individuals will create a market for ambitious entrepreneurs to satisfy. If enough people who would voluntarily accept something like the hyper-efficient cities of The Venus Project generated a significant market demand based on voluntary grounds, we may very well see the kinds of social and environmental change they are hoping for, but without the central authority dictating our lives.

Dare to live free… Just don’t get caught!

C.S. Runberg is a freelance writer and can be found at http://www.christopherscott.me

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