“The Zeitgeist Movement is not a political movement. It does not recognize divisionary notions such as nations, governments, races, religions, creeds, or class. Rather, we see the world as one organism, with the human species as a singular family… Simply put, what the Venus Project represents, and what the Zeitgeist Movement hence condones, could be summarized as: the application of the scientific method for social concern.”
– Peter Joseph Merola
In a sense, the Zeitgeist Movement and the Venus Project have had a more foundational influence on me than libertarianism has, given that I was exposed to them first. It was in part because of them, and similar movements, that I became interested in studying law systems as understood by the global elites, which in turn led me to libertarianism.
I was first introduced to the Venus Project after watching Peter Joseph Merola’s documentary film, Zeitgeist Addendum, and then later came to learn more about it through his presentations, such as the Zeitgeist Activist Orientation Guide. While I have since become critical of some of Merola’s positions and arguments after having adopted libertarianism, I do maintain a great amount of respect for the work(s) of Merola and his associates.
Many people paint a picture of the Venus Project as being incompatible with libertarianism, that it’s just communism with robots. I think this line of thinking demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of both libertarianism and the Venus Project.
I first heard this argument put forward by another great influence of mine: anarcho-capitalist philosopher, Stefan Molyneux. As you can well imagine, I was excited to learn that two men I looked up to would be engaging in an intellectual debate of the highest order.
Sadly, I was disappointed with the results.
The debate started off well, with them both more or less agreeing that the State is a profound problem for society. Where they differed was in the idea of structural violence and monetary systems. As Sargon of Akkad has pointed out, the Left doesn’t understand individuals, and the Right doesn’t understand systems. This sentiment seemed to be illustrated here quite well.
Each speaker’s follow-up videos were unfortunately no better. Stefan did his usual psychoanalysis of Peter’s childhood and likewise Merola called Molyneux a psychotic fraud. Such childishness and lack of professionalism hurt both parties. If I had to pick one of them that ultimately came out stronger in the end, it would have to have been Merola for at least acknowledging his lack of professionalism in the original debate, and having the humility to recognize he didn’t make the best arguments he could have. Later, Merola clarified his points, and did not just tear Molyneux down.
In other videos, Merola rejected the claim he is a communist, instead suggesting that the Venus Project transcends political and monetary systems, which is an accurate description of the Venus Project’s place along the spectrum of history.
If you haven’t seen this movie yet, you should. It’s fantastic!
Thus, we get to the heart of the matter. Are libertarianism and the Venus Project incompatible? I would say the answer is no. If anything, I would suggest the exact opposite – that they have a natural synergy.
The Venus Project relies on technology and the scientific method to produce the most efficient products available as the basis for everything in society in order to meet the basic needs of all human beings. It is their central thesis that ignorance coupled with scarcity of resources leads to nearly all the socio-political problems we see in the world today.
Economics 101 teaches us the law of supply and demand, that price is tied to the amount of a resource measured against demand for that resource. It’s why air is free & diamonds are not, and why sperm is worthless, but a mature human mind is precious.
If you can understand this chart, you know more about economics than Bernie Sanders.
The primary goal of the Venus Project is to overcome the problem of scarcity entirely, through the intelligent application of technology, thereby rendering monetary systems obsolete and property ownership redundant. That’s not to say that property rights would be abolished; just that production would be so efficient and resources abundant so that the prices of all commodities would be reduced to zero until we as a species make the final leap to open-source and sharing through voluntary methods.
As it turns out, technology is really the only thing that truly drives costs down in the long run. Independent of government manipulation of the money supply, there is a certain “natural price” to everything at the intersection of supply and demand. During the period known as the Malthusian Trap, there was a limit to the amount of productivity a human being could accomplish. Supply and demand still mattered, but generally speaking, the time and energy it took a person to produce something was a much bigger determinant of cost. A loaf of bread was only worth so many eggs, as it were.
When technological innovation occurs, it first affects the supply side. Cheaper labor becomes more prevalent through the use of specialized devices, robots replace humans in various industries – in some cases replacing entire industries, like the horse and carriage being replaced by the car – or people find they no longer need to rely on trade and division of labor as they can use advances in technology to do more at home, as we’re now seeing with 3-D printers and the internet. This exponential push by technology is why our cell phones have more power than the Lunar Module, fit in our pocket, and cost a fraction of what they did thirty years ago.
“Ghost in the Shell” is looking fairly prescient, I would say.
Yet in many areas, prices continue to rise.
We libertarians and economic conservatives understand this. We know from history that government manipulation of the market and the money supply leads to economic disaster. It is only in a free market that technology, cures for disease, free exchange of ideas, and personal liberty can flourish.
It was Merola who first taught me about the Federal Reserve with his original film. He agrees the State should get out of the way, yet it seems to be we who don’t understand the end result of doing that. If there is one area in which I disagree with Merola, it would be that the last hundred or so years have been strictly capitalistic, rather than socialist or corporatist. Much of what he and many others mistake for the negative effects of the free market gone awry are really the result of government intervention.
That said, the Venus Project is not a top-down authoritarian regime. Rather, it is a bottom-up collaboration. It’s the inevitable by-product of a free market, voluntary society left to its own devices over the course of many years. It’s a meritocracy ensuring equality of opportunity while not forcing equality of outcome, though still striving for it through cultural and educational progression. When the market is allowed to operate without government, technology advances exponentially and prices decrease towards zero as goods and services become more abundant to the point where, if we’re paying pennies for everything, most people will simply make the natural leap to giving things away for free.
If hard work were the key to success, a ditch-digger would be a millionaire. If intelligence were the key to success, teachers would be millionaires. The reality is, the only key to success is in providing value to others; if people are free that means they are free to withhold their property and labor until an equivalent price is met. Likewise, those with resources to trade are free to withhold them until a reasonable price is met on their end. This is the natural price I spoke of before – that happy place where both sides’ interests coincide.
That certain things are worth mere pennies is a measure of availability of resources, but also of compassion. We have many examples of open-source and free content available today. Things like Blender and Khan Academy come to mind. Wikipedia and YouTube provide vast swathes of information on largely a donation basis, so the idea is not farfetched.
None of these people are forced to do anything against their inclination, they just do it.
However, availability of, access to, and the discovery of new resources changes the dynamic of what we currently understand the economy to be. Petroleum is a good example: it’s always been with us, but it wasn’t until relatively recently in human history that we developed the technology capable of using it as a fuel. Before that, we relied on wood, coal, and whale oil.
In the same way, curved drilling and fracking allow us to tap other reserves that had always been there, but weren’t considered a resource either because we had no access to them. Similarly, through technology, we would be able to tap previously unusable products, like garbage, essentially making resources out of them where they had not been considered resources prior.
Incorporating ecology and recycling into the design phase of all production is among the Venus Projects first principles, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how saving resources and energy leads to economic productivity.
Without government, we could actually use the roads to power our homes.
Many assume the Venus Project seeks to abolish money and property, when in fact there would be no central authority to do any such thing. At best, they would die a natural death as people adapted to alternative means of interaction; at worst some vestiges of either would remain.
People often forget what money is, and why we have property rights. Money is a medium of exchange meant to facilitate barter trade, which only exists because of limited access to resources in an environment of scarcity. In a post-scarcity environment, these things become less useful and would die a natural death without government redistribution.
Likewise, in the Venus Project, you would not be required to give up your property rights. They would simply seem redundant. Merola uses the example of a golf course that provides access to free clubs and then says that sure, you could have your own, but why would you? No one is stopping you from owning them, but it’s a waste of resources, including your own energy to carry and maintain and store them. As the saying goes, why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?
About the only property you’d really need to guard would be your person, your family, and some collectable heirlooms kept for sake of nostalgia or hobby.
How would such a transition take place without central planning? Consider the following example: Many people view Uber as preferable to owning a car because of gas, maintenance, and insurance. It’s cheaper than owning your own, in many ways, especially if you don’t need it particularly often. Now imagine how much cheaper it would be if all Uber cars were self-driving. Insurance costs would come down. You wouldn’t need to pay a driver’s wages, either. Accidents would be reduced, saving time and resources. Self-driving cars would eventually replace most, if not all, jobs in the transportation industry, which is one of the biggest employers in the United States. That frees up labor to do other things, bring wages down, which frees up even more resources, and this creates an upward spiral of productivity. Eventually, only a handful of private companies would own all the cars. These in turn might transition to the hands of voluntary NGOs as it becomes clear that only a small amount of profit is actually being generated from this endeavor. Alternatively, the management of such a network might fall to an online network of self-sustaining AI’s as the human role is removed entirely from this industry.
Yes, in the short term, the market would have to remain because people will still have to pay for the labor needed to build the robots and the floating circular cities. You’d still need monetary systems to transition to a moneyless society, which is why a free market is still the best option. However, I suspect that in the long run, people’s attitudes and customs will simply change until we see them phased out.
Or not. If it turns out we’ll always need some form money because we can’t quite make the final leap away from penny trades, or some form of minarchy because despite our best efforts there are still belligerent psychopaths who refuse to go extinct, then so be it. There are certainly worse things. One system or the other might wear out by attrition eventually, but both benefit long-term by embracing the merits of the other.
For one thing, the globalists will lose a lot of power when their threat of overpopulation meets with self-sustaining cities on the oceans:
Plus, just look how cool these things are!
Libertarians have this unhealthy fear of the Venus Project. Many think of it as authoritarian, and movies like The Thinning, Gattaca, or Brave New World do little to ease concerns about an intellectual elitism. However, I think something like the Vulcan society may be a better projection of humanity’s future along such a path. A rising tide lifts all boats. Central planning drags everyone down to the lowest common denominator, but the expansion of knowledge under anarcho-capitalism brings that denominator up over time.
“Any law that’s made by man that doesn’t fit the circumstances of reality will be violated.”
– Jacques Fresco
In a previous article, I made the argument that it’s not enough to tell people that what they’re doing is wrong. Something better must be substituted in its place if it’s to work.
As mentioned at the start, the Venus Project seeks to apply the scientific method for social concern. It endeavors to understand the natural and environmental causes of human behavior in order to try and bring out the best in people, viewing human beings as part of nature, rather than separate from it. This is no different than any of the other sciences.
In order to create a more moral society, it is necessary to educate them, to change their environment, and to demonstrate how their needs will be met within that morally superior society. For if their needs are not met, they will return to a system that satisfies their own needs at the expense of others out of survival instinct. This is why r-selected people tend to fill the ranks of statism.
Of all the lessons to be learned from the Venus Project, there is perhaps one most pressing above the rest. It highlights a significant and ever more imminent problem that many people, including libertarians, seem to brush aside as not that big a deal, and that is technological unemployment. Technology is increasing at an exponential rate, and that’s a good thing long-term, but terrible short-term because we are neither socio-politically, economically nor culturally prepared to deal with the ramifications thereof.
The Great Depression saw an unemployment rate of about 25%. Given that the government lies about the true rate of unemployment, we’re probably seeing close to half of that right now, with part-time labor being masked as job creation, and people who have given up seeking employment being taken off the roles as though they had jobs when in fact they don’t.
Technological displacement will ultimately see unemployment rates far beyond those of the Depression. I already talked about self-driving cars, but it’s much more prevalent than that, even:
Worst of all, this technological growth is not going to slow down or reverse, but in fact increase.
If the government cared about solving unemployment, it could easily pay people to dig holes and fill them in again, and that would guarantee 100% employment, but kill economic productivity as those producing goods and services that are actually useful would need to be more heavily taxed to support them. This, as we know, creates a negative spiral of decreased productivity and standard of living as seen in socialist countries. And if “Fight for $15” takes hold, business owners will be pushed even faster towards automation, leaving many unskilled workers out in the cold.
A free market could theoretically adapt to the issue of technological displacement more easily, but we are far from a free market, which is where libertarianism comes into play. However, at least in the short-term, we need to recognize that a lot of people are still too emotionally and financially dependent upon the welfare state, and thus some strategic compromises will need to be made.
One thing we might have to consider is replacing the welfare state with a negative income tax, also known as universal basic income. This will soften the transition, but is obviously not an end solution. More will have to be made as time goes on, but time is what we are rapidly running out of. We libertarians know of the dangers inherent in an unsustainable welfare state and a hard crash, though I feel we are largely ignorant of the effects of that coupled with technological displacement.
Anyway you slice it, we have a difficult road ahead of us, but the Venus Project is not our enemy in that fight.
In summary, I hope I have made a reasonable case for why libertarianism and the Venus Project are fairly compatible. A society in which freedom and technology go hand-in-hand to produce a better way of life for all – that is the goal of libertarianism, and it is also the goal of the Venus Project. These two movements are natural allies that work synergistic harmony with one another. If we put our heads together, I think we can accomplish great things.