THAT WHICH CEASES TO FUNCTION, CEASES TO EXIST.
Adapted from an article in the Technocracy Magazine, July 1937
Copyright 1938, Technocracy Inc. Edited, Updated and printed: August 2006
THE ENERGY DISTRIBUTION CARD
As each day passes it becomes more evident that our socio-economic structure is unsustainable in the technological, scientific age in which we live. Consequently, Technocracy Inc., a membership organization which is scientifically oriented, continues to put forward the ideas which the organization developed and presented more than 75 years ago.
One aspect of Technocracy’s analysis is that our “Price System,” which include our current “means of exchange and accounting” (i.e. money), is not a natural requirement of a functioning society in our advance age of science and technology. Though debt tokens go back over 7,000 years in human history, the time is here when wrenching an accountable profit from society’s interactions is too expensive in environmental and human costs.
Using an Energy Distribution Card as a means of accounting is a part of Technocracy’s proposed change in the course of how our socioeconomic system can be organized. This Energy Distribution Card pamphlet describes in part the “how” and “why” of moving from a Price System to Energy Distribution Cards.
In this day of computers, credit cards, and microchips, an addendum should be included.
It is now possible to use a plastic card similar to today’s credit card embedded with a microchip. This chip could contain all the information needed to an energy distribution card as described in this booklet.* Since the same information would be provided in whatever forms best suits the latest technology, however, the concept of an “Energy Distribution Card” is what is explained here.
*In the process of editing to update this booklet, it was found prudent not to change some of the wording that might not be in current use. The word “abundance” is one such word. At the time of the original compilation of this booklet, “abundance” had a dual meaning: not only goods and services in great quantity but also the potential of our productive capabilities to overproduce. Such “abundance” meets with the inherent inability of our present economic system to distribute goods and services equitably or efficiently
The Application of Science to the Means whereby We Live
Throughout countless centuries people have found their own security in the insecurity of others, have found their own economic and cultural haven in the poverty and subservience of the majority, and have found that a higher station in life has only been possible for the few, not the multitude.
Throughout human history selfishness, greed, and wars have been constant. Simultaneously, some dreamers have engaged in a gigantic effort to erase from the face of the earth all “evil” among individuals, groups, and nations. The approach has been an attempt to reform and convert the individual with the hope that an international gathering of “good” men and women could bring about peace and equality. There is no need to describe here the futility of this approach and its very evident failure to accomplish these idealistic ends.
It is perhaps one of the major ironies of history that a new and the only adequate approach should be offered by certain interpreters of applied physical science who distinctly disclaim as their motivating force an idealistic search for truth, love, peace, harmony, and other imponderables.
These interpreters, early Technocrats and people of science, undertook an analysis of the operational problems of the North American Continental area. From this analysis, they synthesized a Technological Design of Social Operations that they predicted as the next most desirable and probable form of society. It was objectively presented. By it, human history can become for the first time a planned progression based on a quantitative analysis of the continental resources.
It is precisely the intricate immensity of continental problems arising in the control and operation of a unique high energy-consuming civilization that requires a unique methodology.
The increase of energy-consuming technologies in a high-energy civilization tends to nullify prior concepts of “value” as it applies to the Price System. The rate of energy consumption of this continental area has reached a magnitude that results in a plethora of goods and services beyond our control. Properly used, this energy consumption could also result in a comfortable lifestyle for everyone on the North American Continent.
When power – applied energy – is used in vast quantities, the result is an abundance of goods and services. Never in history have people faced the technical problem of everyone having a comfortable lifestyle. Efforts in the past have been directed toward philosophical speculation as to how abundance might be achieved. Now, this state of affairs has been thrust upon us by technology. The production problem has been solved, but people must now solve the problem of distributing abundance. (We do not dispute that large numbers of people today are doing without, but from a Technocratic perspective, we contend this needs to be addressed by discarding the “Price System.”)
Adequate production and use of vast quantities of power (applied energy) opens up many vistas of possible human achievement previously seen only as shifting mirages by the Utopian dreamers of history. It realizes the physical fact of abundance. It contains within itself the technique whereby goods and services can be distributed. It provides not just another variation of the method of haphazard exchange now in operation throughout the world but a technique of physical accounting on a continental order of magnitude. In operation, this continental accounting system would allow a high degree of certainty in meeting human needs.
Social Design Now Possible
Science and technology have developed the method of research and analysis. People are now adept at the discovery and classification of physical knowledge by which we have constructed energy-consuming technologies that have created a new world, so to speak. Today, the data are available. More research is being conducted than ever before. In the matter of design, too, science and technology have made strides but only in the minutia of science and technology.
People have designed and constructed enormous dams, power plants, and canals, but we have never designed and constructed a continental hydrology. People have designed and streamlined trains, planes, and magnificent terminals but never an integrated continental system of low-cost transportation. People have designed automobiles and highways but never perfected a superhighway system controlling the origin of traffic and the “load factor” (here meaning how much can be moved safely and efficiently.) People have built haphazard price system economics and political empires, but never have we designed a self-contained technological social mechanism.
In other words, the design of the past have been only designs of minutia, the working up from the part to the whole; never were they designs of the whole, leading down into the microcosmic parts. When a continental social mechanism is designed as an operational totality, then, and then only, will the whole exceed the sum of its parts. A planned social structure is possible when, and only when, all the factors relevant to the operation of a social mechanism are measurable. With measurable factors, effective social planning is possible. Today, the predominant immeasurable factor is “price,” which explains why neither the United States nor any other country has been able to achieve sustainability.
But of course, until slightly over 100 years ago, science and technology had never had the opportunity to design in this manner. Even the science and technology of the Industrial Revolution are comparatively new. These fields have never approached managing the social order (except in science fiction.) The discovery of the importance of the energy factor is social measurement was first made by Technocracy. The discovery forms the basis of a continental design.
Measurement by Energy Cost
The problems of the commodity exchange method of distributing goods and services, and of Price System economics in general, became apparent before World War l. The disrupted conditions that time led to an investigation which in turn uncovered the astounding, yet almost obvious, fact that the only common denominator of all commodities and services is energy.
The scientists who pointed this out simply proposed to measure the total amount of energy used in a given period, measure the energy cost of physical production and services, and use these measurements as the basis for the regulation oof all continental production and distribution.
The Price System
The Price System grew out of the days of scarcity, when trading crude materials, or stealing them, was the only way in which people could acquire the articles they needed. Through complex ramifications the trading system has grown until it is now the overwhelming structure of finance, business, commerce and politics – in short the Price System in toto – a gigantic structure but still a method of exchanging goods, springing from the ancient custom and necessity of barter. There is only a pretense of accurate measurement and control; physical accounting is inadequate; accurate predictions are impossible, as is overall stabilization. The Price System is simply a method of erratic exchange. In scarcity, it sufficed well enough as an exchange method; with enough to go around, it cannot even do that. When the possibility of assuring accurate measurement of all goods and services in quantities of physical terms was announced, it was treated with scorn by all the institutions of the Price System. To take science out of the laboratory and apply it so social operations seemed inconceivable to many vested interests, but now the inevitability of such a development is slowly becoming apparent, as is the coming scarcity of oil and other important resources. Those who are blind to the possibilities of energy accounting are like those who refused to accept many other new technologies. They may find themselves footnotes in history as the proverbial Luddites. They will have to accept energy accounting or remove themselves from its sphere. Let us add that it is a long, cold swim to the next continent.
Facts and Social Regression
Physical developments has made the next step mandatory, and Technocracy, grown from the work of the interpreters of science previously mentioned, now states the following: that the North American Continent has many potentially sustainable resources; that we have designed , developed and are operating the largest and most complex technology in existence; that we have many intelligent men and women who are technically trained; and that we have the highest average consumption of energy per capita of any continent.
Technocracy also states that there need be no uncomfortable restrictions on our physical standard of living due to inadequate resources; that we can only continue to optimize per capita consumption by the increased substitutions of energy and technology for man-hours of labor and by a continuous improvement of our equipment; that we will be forced to greater and greater integration of our data and of our physical equipment; and that we will do well to adapt a technological administration for all forms of social operations.
This, then, is our social progression whether we like it or not. If we do not accept these physical conditions and refuse to adopt a method of control capable of administering these processes, the most likely other alternative is the complete abandonment of our technological developments, with the consequent chaos. Technocracy urges that we not permit catastrophe. The North American people are going to demand that we move forward; and the citizens can choose to conscript their leaders, the technologists, the scientists and engineers to lead them in establishing this new system.
This new system will put into operation a Continental Energy Accounting, utilizing the Energy Distribution Card. Production and distribution will depend on continent-wide statistics expressing the desires of all citizens in their choices of consumable goods and available services. This system will do the following things in a geographical area where sufficiency is certain:
1. Record on a continuous 24-hour basis the total net conversion of energy for continental plant construction and maintenance, the availability of energy for continental plant construction and maintenance, and the amount of physical resources and services for use by the total population during a given period.
2. By means of the registration of energy converted and consumed, make possible the best use of equipment and resources (“a balanced load”).
3. Provide a continuous 24-hour inventory of all production and consumption.
4. Provide a specific registration of the type, kind, size, etc., of all goods and services, where produced and where obtained.
5. Provide specific registration of the consumption by each individual.
6. Allow citizens the widest possible latitude of choice in consuming their individual shares of goods and services.
7. Distribute goods and services to every member of the population.
The challenge of producing continental abundance is without precedence in the social history of human beings. The magnitude of this problem prescribes that there be a highly innovative solution. The physical resources of our continent can be usefully developed only by the technological application of sustainable energy supplies. This continental production of sufficiency, therefore, will provide the largest per capita consumption of extraneous energy while maximizing the conversion of natural resources.
This use of energy in producing “enough to go around” would require the maximum efficiency at close to “full-load operation.” It is obvious that for this production to be attained with a minimum of human toil, we must have an accurate measurement of all extraneous energy converted on the continental area and the continuous recording of its allocated degradation in providing the citizens of this continent with sufficient physical wealth for optimal individual consumption.
Science and technology have no philosophical or moral “values,” only measurement. The single method known to science in the measurement of the cost of all physical operations is that of the amount of energy consumed per unit of mass, per unit of time, per unit of distance. Technocracy presents the only system for calculating and distributing extraneous energy on this North American Continent.
The Continental Energy
Each citizen on the North American Continent will be issued a card allowing for a certain expenditure of energy to provide for goods and services. All public services (such as local transportation, health care, housing, education and our infrastructure and it maintenance) will be provided free, without any personal expenditure of energy units. An individual’s personal energy units would be for food, personal effects and entertainment, creative development and expression.
The individual’s share is not based upon his or hers contribution of work or effort for the larger community. (The term “work” is often used derogatorily in this Price System society.) All would receive equally, leaving personal decisions about how to expend that share up to the individual. Technocracy has no theory of the “value” of labor. People will largely want and need to “make do” because we are human beings, and human beings are highly creative and altruistic.
Individual Consuming Privileges
Every adult above 25 years of age will receive as his/her share of purchasing power and equal part of the total net consumed energy; and from birth to the twenty-fifth year, every individual will receive a maintenance allowance.
The card will be issued directly to the individual. It is nontransferable and nonnegotiable; therefore, it cannot be stolen, lost, loaned, borrowed or given away. It is noncumulative; therefor it cannot be saved, and it does not accrue or bear interest. It need not be spent but loses its validity after a designated time period.
Gender, ethnic and sexual preference distinctions will not be applied to individuals for purposes of accounting.
The Energy Distribution Card represents equal, though not identical, purchasing power for every adult living on this continent. In itself, it represents nothing of value. It is much in the nature of a blank check – a scrap of paper.
The card is valid only for the purchase of items individually consumable. Means of production and distribution cannot be owned by an individual. The individual owns nothing beyond his/her immediate personal belongings and apparel. For example, he/she does not own an automobile but merely “pays” with energy units for the use of personal transportation on a time-distance basis.
Technocracy’s system will permit no curtailment or differentiated increases of individual purchasing power.
This card furnishes the individual with the means of maximum social expression and choice. Purchasing power is the only avenue whereby individuals can participate in directing what is wanted and needed in their local areas. The flow of goods and services in sufficient quantities can be controlled by feedback from everyone’s use of the Energy Distribution Card.
The Energy distribution Card eliminates both the cause and the existence of all social work, charity and philanthropy. It will reduce crime to but a small fraction of what exists today. That fraction will fall into the field of pathology. The reduction in crime will not be due to any change in “human nature,” but to the absence of objects of competitive “value” and lack of gain to be had from crime. The element of a chance of “winning” or the risk of “losing” would disappear.
In the Technological Social Design, the means of distribution, based o the cost per unit produced and service provided, is not subject to fluctuations of “value.”
We find the card then, a methodology of technological accounting – a methodology which applies the same rigid measurement that our mass production of today employs, and has to employ, in its swiftly moving flow lines of intricate equipment and varied products.
Inflation, deflation, fiat money, social dividends, currency markets, etc., are – and have to be – dismissed as instruments unsuitable for the distribution of an abundance (or sufficiency) of goods and services. Those instruments all presuppose a condition of value: demand and supply, haphazard and meager flow of goods and services, and political interference superimposing control upon the functions of our national economies.
Today, wealth is measured according to the possession of the medium of exchange (money). A person’s possessions may have originated through channels ethical or unethical, legal or illegal, socially detrimental or beneficial, but once in possession of the medium of exchange, the holder may apply it with little thought to social responsibilities, the only limiting factor being shrewdness, legalities (if caught doing something illegal), and the volume of money on hand. Under the system proposed by Technocracy, energy accounting would automatically exclude the possibility of abuses, legal or otherwise.
The Energy Distribution Card is a way to measure what is consumed. In use, it becomes a dependable, invariable, and integral part of operations. By contrast, all mediums of exchange represent “values,” fictitious or only ostensibly based upon physical objects, distinctly apart from or merely a unit of the totality of operations. The medium of exchange must always be restricted to processes of evaluation and can never be a process of measurement.
The energy card will not partake of that miraculous feature of a medium of exchange – expanding at a compound rate of interest; and it has nothing to do with that other convenient property of a medium of exchange which allows manipulation in such a manner as to result in a handsome multiplication of the leaven with which the first transaction is affected. We must mention here that the original nest egg may have been a borrowed one; so, to mix metaphors even further, the golden cow has been milked for its cream by the financial world.
Value and Philosophies
The disappearance of “values” in tangible objects automatically invalidates all social philosophies as potential solutions of our social problems. Social philosophies are based on assumed MORAL values of human effort.
Previously, that item which was scarcest and involved the largest expenditure of human effort was the highest in “value.” Now, in a sea of “enough to go around,” one who stubbornly holds fast to a social philosophy and “values” is much like the poor hen who with bewilderment watches the ducklings she has hatched take to the water. She herself lacks the webbed feet required for swimming and cannot understand such peculiar goings-on.
As a case in point, let us consider one material without which no life can continue on this globe – air. Air has never been subjected to the operations of trading, financing, mortgaging, loaning, borrowing, evaluation or any other manipulations of the Price System. Why? Because its bountiful supply has never permitted the creation of a demand.
The characteristics of air can be duplicated with any other needed thing, if we establish the requirements of “enough to go around.” (Now we need to worry whether air will remain reasonably breathable.)
The Energy Distribution Card is the only instrument of distribution which can be used on the North American Continent’s emerging era of abundance.