February 13, 2004

Utopian party

After hearing us talk about our experiences at the Democratic caucus last Saturday, Becky's sister said "I thought you were Socialists."

Well, yeah, but... that's not a very practical party affiliation in this country at this time. And actually what we really are is Utopians.

Here's my version of the Utopian party platform (there is no Utopian party, I'm making it up):

Everyone is guaranteed the following staples of life:

  • Clean air to breathe
  • Pure water to drink
  • Wholesome food to eat
  • Basic clothing
  • A safe warm place to sleep
  • Sanitary facilities
  • Needful medical treatment
  • All the education you can sponge up

Those who are able should spend some portion of their time working directly to provide these necessities for themselves and their neighbors (not earning money to pay for them, but working directly to produce one or more of the staples).

The collective effort required to provide the staples should leave copious time for other pursuits on the part of the citizenry. Those other pursuits are unrestricted, with the exception that they cannot directly or indirectly cause harm to other citizens or their current or future health and well-being.

Yeah, it sounds like oversimplified lunacy, but think what we could do if we didn't all have to individually scratch and claw our way to having those necessities for ourselves.

Would war become impossible?

What would be a crime and who would be moved to commit it?

What sorts of activities could meet the "do no harm" requirement?

Posted by jeffy at February 13, 2004 03:22 PM

I was camping this week, and there were showers
available. They cost a quarter for 3 minutes of
hot water (a cold shower was f-f-free).

There was a very interesting sign above the
coin slot, that went something like "In order to
reduce line length, and to increase availability
of the shower facilities, there is a small charge
for hot water."

I have no doubts that charging a quarter for hot
water increases the utility of that shower, in
terms of dirty bodies soaped and cleaned per
hour. And I have no doubt that charging a quarter
for 3 minutes of hot water results in reduced
resource usage, and I think that is a good thing
(the shower that I was using used propane to
heat the water. A gallon of propane can provide
about 50 3 minute showers).

Okay, I can arrange a situation where if anyone
is waiting for a shower, they can limit your hot
water time to 3 minutes. And we can have a very
interesting discussion of solar heated hot water,
and how to make it most available to the largest
number of people. I think the point of my tedious
post is that there must be some discomfort, caused
by the consequences of ones actions, in order to
enforce efficiency and to serve everyone better,
and I don't know how you introduce that into your
otherwise desirable utopia.

Posted by: Dan L at February 14, 2004 10:34 AM

You forgot to guarantee a right to well-written books.

Also, someone needs to work on warp drive.

Posted by: Gary Farber at February 24, 2004 05:51 PM

I can't tell whether you're agreeing with me or making fun of me, Gary.

Good books and warp drive both seem like worthy pursuits for the copious free time that would result from my fantasy being made fact.

Hope your job situation looks up soon.

Posted by: jeffy at February 24, 2004 10:58 PM