We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living.I added the source – Carroll wouldn't even tell you that it comes from a pro-hippie article from 1970.
We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors.
The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.
"The New York Magazine Environmental Teach-In" by Elizabeth Barlow in New York Magazine (30 March 1970), p. 30
Sean Carroll likes the quote and he even says that it isn't a socialist idea because it doesn't violate the rules of the free market. Wow.
First, let me tell you something "positive". I do think that many people work way too much. It's not just about the work. They're doing many things that aren't really making them happy because they feel that they should. They've been trained to do such things, think that they are important, and they judge their own value according to various criteria that the society seems to impose upon them (even drinking lots of alcohol in a pub is something that doesn't really make most people happy but most people pretend that it's so great). They don't have enough time for the things that would actually make them happy (and spending time with science is surely a natural candidate) – even though they could actually afford to reorganize their lives in favor of things that they find important or pleasant themselves.
Yes, I've largely grown out of this influence of the society when I was a teenager if not much earlier. It's especially the freedom from many of these things that makes me happy despite all the hard things I sometimes have to go through. However, I would still be unable to claim that I am never working, I haven't been working, I haven't earned any money, I am not earning any money, or I don't care about the money. So let me get to the main, "negative" side of the ideology above.
While it's true that the Western society may "feed" and sustain the life of pretty much everyone by work that can be done by a tiny percentage of the nations (plus machines), it doesn't follow that the society "collectively wants" to rebuild itself into the regime in which most people don't work.
The reason is simple: the basic food requirements and other biological requirements for the survival are not the only needs that people have and feel. They want to have better food and beverages, better housing, but they also want to travel, have better vehicles and means of transportation, and millions of other types of products you could surely enumerate.
At any level of the technological progress, there is always something that can't be given to everyone for free even though they would want it. These things may be getting more "spiritual" in character as the society is becoming more advanced – people pay e.g. for music or iPad/Android applications or similar "immaterial" things that their grandfathers could consider a complete waste of money – but the medium doesn't really matter. At least some products/commodities/things are not available in an infinite amount so the access of the people to such things must be organized in some way. The concept of the money is the most peaceful, most quantitative, most accurate way to assign the people's access to things that can't be for free.
In the previous paragraph, I made capitalism sound like a particular design in social engineering but capitalism is something else. It emerged spontaneously. It's natural. It works.
It's also important to mention that while the inventors of some crucial technologies produce benefits for the mankind whose value exceeds the benefits produced by an average person by many orders of magnitude, the society could still not function with these people only. The society still needs some people who work with the engines, whatever they are, and do similar things. And it's this bulk of the "ordinary enough" people for which the concept of the money is very important – well, it's important for the society that the money is important for these people. Warren Buffett or Bill Gates may vow to spray 1/2 of their wealth to random places of the world and it makes no qualitative difference for their wealth and for what they may afford (pretty much anything). But it's the people who earn either $50,000 a year or $100,000 a year (or $5,000 vs $10,000, in poorer countries) who will notice what the doubling means.
Some people in the comment thread under Carroll's article conjecture that people won't need money – they will prefer the social status etc. That may sound natural to someone but this opinion is a complete misunderstanding of the concept of the money. By its very definition, the money is the most comprehensive, all-encompassing measure of the things that people want but can't get for free ("automatically"). Even though the social status and wealth aren't the same things, the social status is one and just one component of the wealth that people have.
What I want to say is the following: Some people find their status important; others don't. Some people find it important to drink lots of tequila, others don't. People have various desires and they may transform their work, their time, and their wealth to the things they want to have, at an "exchange rate" that is given by many factors in the real world. More precisely, people mostly create products or services that are fulfilling other people's wishes, desires, and dreams. For the earned money, they may afford to buy what they want and need. Money is just making barter more accurate, it allows more complicated "generalizations of barter" whose transactions involve many participants, and money also allows intertemporal barter (saving, borrowing etc.). It's clear that people had to invent them because it's just better to use money than to be satisfied with barter.
The precise things that various people (or most people) want or dream about may be changing with time. The technological progress makes certain things that used to be scarce cheap. But new things are created and they're often scarce. Nothing is changing and nothing will ever be changing about the fact that there will be things that are scarce. One may assume that the change of the priorities is continuous which means that the concept of money may be extrapolated from one moment of the history to another (but what one should mean by the "inflation rate" is a slightly more complicated and not so canonically settled question).
So is Fuller's vision communism?
It depends which communism you mean. If you mean communism in a general sense, it surely is. If you mean some particular real communism that has existed in the Soviet bloc, it's surely not. Communists would have a trouble with 99.99% people who don't work. In fact, they were shocked by every single individual who wasn't working in a factory between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. or so.
Even today, when I do the shopping, for example, at such a random moment of the workdays, I meet some hardcore pensioners – who have lived through the whole communist era which shaped their values – and they sometimes seem stunned that a person above 20 and beneath 65 years of age may be walking in a supermarket at the time when everyone in that age is obliged to work in a factory, unless he is one of the nasty members of the burgeoisie (the criminals who steal from the working people, e.g. entrepreneurs and intellectuals). ;-) Fuller's vision surely doesn't describe the communist ideas from the 1950s or 1960s or 1970s or 1980s sketching how the real world should have worked in those decades.
On the other hand, we would be learning that the system we "enjoyed" before 1989 was just the socialism, one of the first stages in the evolution towards the full-fledged communism. In communism, everyone works according to his ability and gets everything according to his need. This is a slogan from Karl Marx from 1875. We would repeatedly hear this slogan (in Czech) during several brainwashing classes we had to undergo as kids.
Needless to say, Marx's explanation why this arrangement would ultimately materialize and why it would be a good thing is pretty much identical to Fuller's (and therefore Carroll's). This is one of the reasons why I generally count all such Fullers and Carrolls among Marxists. If it barks like a Marxist, walks like a Marxist, stinks like a Marxist, sucks like a Marxist, steals like a Marxist, brainwashes like a Marxist, executes like a Marxist, and wants to suppress your freedom like a Marxist, it's probably a Marxist.
Marx was a pompous guy and his misguided ideas (and the ideas of several other key people who mattered to a comparable extent – bloodthirsty practitioners like Lenin and Stalin and yes, Lenin was a much more obsessed and cruel killer than Stalin although his opportunity to mass murder were limited) have crippled approximately one third of the world economy for approximately one-half of the 20th century (it was much less than 1/3 at the end) and provided various top followers with an excuse to murder about 50 million people. But while he completely misunderstood what's essential for the human society to work and develop, he was not a complete imbecile (just a partial one). He has read a lot, thought a lot, and invented pretty much all the "wonderful" left-wing ideas we're hearing about these days about 140 years ago.
I am only ready to use the term "non-Marxist" without a hesitation for someone who
- understands why all the money-free, work-free, competition-free societies are utopian and impossible to realize in practice;
- actually thinks that even if they were possible to be realized, they would turn the society into a worse place for life.
The more correlated the wealth is with the actual contributions to the realization of the desires and wishes of others, the more a given human society will become able to fulfill the desires and wishes of its members. Taxation, income given for free (without work), subsidies, and all such things make the correlation less tight so these things simply turn the society into a worse place for life, into a less efficient engine that makes people's dreams come true. It's that simple. Everyone who supports higher taxes and similar things is ultimately hurting the people's dreams.
And all the fans of Fuller's and other Marxist ideas: Please stop with your preposterous arrogance and attempts to pretend that you are cool. You are not cool. You are sucking some of the stinkiest stuff from the cesspool at the dumping ground of the human history. It's a stuff that has turned some prosperous countries such as mine into borderline third-world banana republics and the books in which the recipe for this transformation was outlined were used as fuel in the early 1990s. Your stuff is no better than Marx's original stuff. You're just late to the party – relatively to Marx and the "pretty much normal Marxists", you are retarded by approximately 140 years.