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What do you get a Universe that already contains everything?

Here's a pretty old legacy post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 20 years ago, in 2004, on the World Wide Web.

Today (or yesterday, depending on how you count these things) is the 6,000th birthday of the Universe, according to the calculations of Bishop James Ussher. I hope that Young Earth Creationists around the world are living it up over this sextamillenial weekend.

Well, not really: life, the Universe, and everything was calculated by Ussher to have been created around 6:00pm on Saturday, October 22, 4004 BC; and from 4004 BC to AD 2004 is actually not a round 6,000 years, but rather 6,007 (remembering that there is no year 0). The cosmos’s 6,000th actually passed us by at this time of the year in 1997. But if a preference for nice round numbers can make 2000 CE the time to mark the beginning of the second millennium, it can make 2,004 the time to mark 6,000 years from the Beginning.

In the meantime, you can celebrate the occasion with a delightful article about Pufferfish genomes from The Panda’s Thumb, or Roderick Long’s post on the shared premises of creationism and (state) socialism from earlier this year at Austro-Athenian Empire. (Let me just add that Long’s comments on socialism apply to state socialism but not to those of us whose flags are Black as well as Red. There is no place for central production boards or Five Year Plans here, and spontaneous unplanned harmony is no problem for us in nature or in politics–just ask Prince Kropotkin.)

6 replies to What do you get a Universe that already contains everything? Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Sameul Haque

    I never really saw anything fundementally wrong with socialism, and I still don’t. It would actually work if people cared more about each other than they cared about their stuff. There seems to be an underlying assumption made by capitalists that high collective moralities are an exception rather than the rule, but there’s really no basis for it. If people can respect the difference between true and false (as rational consumers), the same can be done for right and wrong and for beauty and ugliness.

  2. Rad Geek

    Whether I have any problem or not with socialism depends on what socialism is supposed to mean–and unfortunately this is not always clear (the same is true, mutatis mutandis, for capitalism). I identify as a socialist and consider myself part of the socialist tradition–but not because I have any delusions about either the theory or the historical record of state socialism. Benjamin Tucker prophetically pointed out in the 1880s that the two extremes of the vast army of the socialist movement, though united, as has been hinted above, by the common claim that labor shall be put in possession of its own, are more diametrically opposed to each other in their fundamental principles of social action and their methods of reaching the ends aimed at than either is to their common enemy, the existing society. And he rightly predicted what victory for the state socialists would mean:

    Whatever, then, the State Socialists may claim or disclaim, their system, if adopted, is doomed to end in a State religion, to the expense of which all must contribute and at the altar of which all must kneel; a State school of medicine, by whose practitioners the sick must invariably be treated; a State system of hygiene, prescribing what all must and must not eat, drink, wear, and do; a State code of morals, which will not content itself with punishing crime, but will prohibit what the majority decide to be vice; a State system of instruction, which will do away with all private schools, academies, and colleges; a State nursery, in which all children must be brought up in common at the public expense; and, finally, a State family, with an attempt at stirpiculture, or scientific breeding, in which no man and woman will be allowed to have children if the State prohibits them and no man and woman can refuse to have children if the State orders them. Thus will Authority achieve its acme and Monopoly be carried to its highest power.

    If Tucker’s analysis had any faults, it was only that he did not–maybe no-one could–forsee the full scope of the horrors that totalitarian state socialism would inflict on the 20th century. And none of it is a matter of some kind of theory about human stupidity or venality; as both Tucker and economists such as Ludwig von Mises astutely showed, the state socialist attempt to abolish free exchange in favor of central planning is as such doomed to failure–where economic failure can mean anything from stagnation and underemployment to famine and death–and to tend, directly in proportion to how completely it is implemented, towards absolute tyranny by the bosses of the so-called workers’ state. That’s what state socialists’ plans mean; not because humans are stupid or wicked or can’t make a just and free society work, but rather because the programme of state socialist planning just is to abolish the means by which humans can make themselves able to intelligently build a just and free society–that is, market prices, the freedom to work where you will and move where you want, the freedom for workers to organize and associate for coordinating their labor or for mutual aid, the right to speak freely and publish freely, and all the other necessary means to the emergence of a spontaneous harmony out of the actions of many individuals. The state socialist, unable or unwilling to see how a just society could come about through organizing and free choice, prefers to put brute force behind the demiurgic attempts of the Creator State-God to will social order out of chaos according to the latest set of plans and projections, without the freedom needed for any possibility of appeal or correction.

    Anarchist socialism will have nothing of the sort. The socialist tradition is worth standing behind and defending when it means freedom for workers and a society in which labor comes to be in possession of its own–a free society in which the voluntary associations of workers and neighbors are allowed to take the bosses’ boots from off their necks. That is, I think, a true and just meaning of socialism, and one worth defending. But it is worth nothing more than contempt and horror when it means what the past century of Bolshevism and corporativism have tried to make it mean: a fight to put workers in the service of an Almighty State. The butchers of Kronstadt and Barcelona are not my comrades. Marxism, corporativism, War Communism, the Five Year Plan, purges, the Great Leap Forward, central planning, production quotas, and the rest are nothing any sane person should want anything to do with.

    As Joe Hill would put it, both to the capitalist bosses and to the party bosses of the so-called workers’ states:

    Are you cold, forlorn and hungry? / Are there lots of things you lack? / Is your life made up of misery? / Then dump the bosses off your back!

  3. Sameul Haque

    What is more important to me than the definition of socialism is the definition of labor. If labor is reduced to a physical act, then the form of socialism which results is Marxist socialism which does not consider reflection to be labor and thus underscores the very materialism it attempts to destroy. Marx was directly responsible for Bolshevism because his concept of labor was essentially materialistic to begin with.

  4. Sergio Méndez


    Can you clarify a bit more when you say that marxist conception of labor is wrong cause it is materialistic? I am not sure why it makes it marx wrong in that aspect.

  5. Sam Haque

    Marx talks about about value as “socially necessary labour time” and that actually sounds pretty good. In practice, however, Marx ignores the social part of his own value theory and when you strip away the frosting, what you have is Ricardo’s labor theory of value which determines value content based on the number of man hours worked while ignoring the societal dimension of value which can only be determined through experienced reflection. This social element is the chief strength of the human race becuase it gives humanity a literally unthinkable power to adapt.

    Marxism says you if you’re strong should spend as much time physically working as possible and if you’re smart spend you should spend as much time figuring out more efficient ways to working as possible. That kind of socialism is doomed to failure becuase it can’t adapt quickly enough to changing conditions of nature, technology, and culture.

— 2008 —

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