The Aims of Economic Revolution

“Complete freedom implies equality, since if there are rich and poor, the poor cannot be permitted to take liberties with riches. Complete equality implies freedom, since those who suffer restrictions cannot be the equals of those who impose them.” Donald Rooum, What is Anarchism? (1992)


The primary aim of a just economic system should be to produce the necessities of life in enough quantity that none are deprived. The rightful recipients of these necessities include every living being, every kind of organism, from simple plants to complex animals. Generally, each living being should receive an adequate, or if possible, a generous supply of nutritious food & drink, healthcare, transportation, living quarters, and for humans at least, clothing.

The secondary aim of a just economy is to empower its participants to sustain an adequate or, preferably, a generous standard of living, without harmful over-consumption. Education is the primary method of such empowerment for humankind. This education should not be directed to the fulfillment of the profit motive, but towards a general equality of living standards.

The tertiary aim of a just economy is the advancement of the living standard of the entire ecosystem, human and non-human. While minimal living standards are the initial goal, a mere subsistence is not a life of freedom. The improvement of living and working conditions in harmony with the natural world towards a generous future is the authentic and just motivation for economic innovation.

The achievement of equality and liberty with maximal natural and social harmony is a revolutionary goal, even though it hardly seems extreme. It only appears radical in contrast to the massive poverty, oppression, and degradation of humankind and nature that are rampant upon our planet. However, the right-wing conviction that oppression, poverty, and environmental disruption are natural and even desirable is bluntly barbaric.

Our modern economic system demands from each ordinary participant at least 40 hours of labor devoted to profit-making chiefly for others. The average amount of sleep a person needs in a week is 56 hours. The necessary act of eating takes up an average of 21 hours per week. For most of our world’s living adult population, at least 5 or more hours per week are devoted to “overtime” for the profit of others. This leaves each worker at most 46 hours per week to pursue their freely chosen ends.

The labor we devote to the profit of others is not freely chosen by most of humankind. The threat of poverty or starvation coerce most of us into underpaid, unpleasant jobs. If each of us could have at least 8 more hours a week to pursue a freely chosen passion or leisure without fear of deprivation, our contentment and pleasure with life would increase noticeably. If we could achieve even greater levels of freedom from involuntary work for more hours per week, the personal and social benefits would be enormous.

Achieving a shorter work-week is the key to revolutionary economic goals. Our modern system aims at profit and so it pressures most of us to work for many more hours than would be required to produce our needs apart from profit and excess luxury. Production of things is valued in terms of their marketability and profit-margin, not whether they genuinely contribute to social and natural well-being.

The productive advances discovered by science, invention, and education are not turned towards the satisfaction of all needs equally, but first of all to the profit of the wealthy. It seems so plainly reasonable that humankind should turn its powers towards cooperative production, if only the means of production were in the hands of the many equally, not the few who pursue mere individual wealth.

3 thoughts on “The Aims of Economic Revolution

  1. I am not well-read in utilitarianism, though checking wikipedia for “negative utilitarianism” was helpful. At first glance, I can’t decide whether NU is my view or some form of Prioritarianism. I concede that as someone with a socialist orientation, my construction of socialism does smack of utilitarianism, in contrast the dominant views within socialism, who tend to be class-partisan. Class-partisan socialism can be justified as a form of prioritarianism, in that advancing the well-being of the working class may advance the overall well-being of society.

  2. You know, I think that Dewey was also writing in this way in a way that I didn’t quite get and that I think Skinner thoghut he was saying but wasn’t quite sure (I don’t think Dewey is the clearest writer.) I am going to have to think about it more, but he was implying that the action wasn’t the end of a train, it was actually the start of it. I still don’t get it, but I think there is something related. I also have to think about your sense of experimental pragmatism. I think I have to get some grey matter around that a little.

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