30 Aug 2010

Venus Needs Some Austrians

Shameless Self-Promotion 4 Comments

I explain at Mises.org. The “Venus Project” is a utopian (not using that term pejoratively) vision of a world free from scarcity. I agree that our world could be fantastically more productive than it current is, such that a casual observer might describe it as “post-scarcity.” Still, the people involved with this project blame everything on private property and money:

Our present world is manifestly unjust. In addition to wars and genocides, there are also pockets of shocking poverty that could be quickly eradicated if only the right social institutions were in place.

Those championing the Resource-Based Economy recoil in horror from our present world, and understandably so. Yet because they have obviously not studied Austrian economics, they have misdiagnosed the problem.

Abolishing money will not solve the world’s problems, because money is an indispensable tool to aid in economic calculation. Rather, the way to raise the material standard of living around the world is to foster a universal respect for property rights.

4 Responses to “Venus Needs Some Austrians”

  1. f4kingit says:

    What about the classic Marxist argument that, first, capitalism brings society up to “some point” where things are “good enough” and presumably robots are creating a lot of things (and somehow maintaining themselves), and then it’s just a small step to get rid of the capitalists that got society that far and go to socialism?

  2. Ricardo Cruz says:

    Bob, great article.

    “Before leaving this section,”

    The explanation that follows is superb. It was put in a very succinctly, yet accessible manner. I just feel you should probably have emphasized the adverse effect of price controls on production (that it simply causes shortages: you go to the supermarket, and the shelves are empty even if the price tags are the same). A reader unfamiliar to econ may think what a great idea to make things cheaper, after he has read “while the government made it illegal for merchants to raise prices”.

    Anyhow, wrt resource-based economies, it’s just a new marketing pun on the old idea of centrally planning the economy. From the little Venus literature, I actually get the sense they are purposefully putting a different spin on the old socialist literature — I don’t think they are honest at all, unlike you Bob. If they are, here’s a couple of suggestions for them:
    1) Tell us how you view everyday life to be within the Venus commune: will people be forced to work a few hours every day? How will you get people to work on this or that without wage differentials? If you are going to do without “marketing and advertising personnel”, how will the Venus politic class be elected? Or, if the commune will operate in a direct democracy fashion, how will people be able to inform each other about the pros and cons of some law to produce this or that without advertising?
    2) Will the Venus commune be of voluntary membership, or are you guys pushing for government adoption of your policies?

  3. Argosy Jones says:

    It looks like my intended comment got eaten, so I’ll distill it down for a second attempt.

    1. Jacques Fresco is touted as an industrial designer, inventor, and “social systems engineer”. I have yet to find anything that he is invented, designed or “socially engineered.” I’m happy to be proven wrong. Without any evidence of some kind of invention, engineering, or design, I’d say, this is evidence that Fresco is a Fraud. Make no mistake; Fresco IS the Venus Project.

    2. I find it disturbing that the primary imagery presented for the venus project’s proposed city is circular. Allow me to digress for a moment. The circular utopia theme is present from the beginning: Plato’s description of atlantis, filarete’s sforzinda, and Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City all present diagrammatical utopias. I’m sure I hardly touch upon the depths of this theme in world architecture and planning of utopias.

    3. Pictures are worth a thousand words. In the case of the Venus Project, a picture is worth a thousand lies. Renderings and representations have a way of decieving the casual viewer. They seem so solid, we have a tendency to imagine that they have solid thinking behind them. From experience, I know that this is an illusion.

    4. As regards the socialist calculation problem, Fresco implicitly proposes that Computers will solve it for us. I think this is wrong for the reason that values are subjective. I’m not an economist, but I feel sure that I wouldn’t trust a computer program to tell me what is noblest and best in life, no matter what it’s programmers told me.

    5. Ironically, the Venus project’s strongest online proponents seem exceptionally immune to basic economic logic. They propose a wholesale rewiting of human nature, society and economics, yet deny that the movement is utopian. They propose that all resources are the property of all humankind, but deny that they arre communist or socialist.

    If you doubt my claims, please go to the following:


  4. Captain T says:

    I think the only semi-reasonable, however unrealistic argument I have heard against property is that of Henry George. Mainly that resources are wasted on property leasing and trading. Why not apply this logic to everything? It doesn’t make anything more fair.