The suggestion takes the form of a fictitious cabinet meeting right after election victory.
"JEAN CHRÉTIEN: Gentlemen, the country is in a big mess. There are a lot of unhappy people, hungry children, abused wives, waste, crime and corruption. We are elected to solve these problems. What are we going to do about it?
SHEILA COPPS: Mr. Prime Minister, we have to plan scientifically. We have to define the objectives of a human society and then plot a course to get there from where we are.
ELINOR CAPLAN: I agree absolutely. In my view a society is a community of human beings, organized by using division of labor, to achieve production, distribution and consumption of goods for basic human needs, and after those are satisfied, some luxuries for those who want to work for it.
JEAN CHRÉTIEN: Very good. Since the purpose is to satisfy basic needs, we have to make a list of them so we all agree what they are.
DAVID COLLENETTE: That is very simple, sir. We all need food. clothing, housing, energy, medical help, education, protection, entertainment.
ALLEN ROCK: If we want to function as an organized industrial society, then we also need transportation, communication, power, tools and basic raw materials.
JEAN CHRÉTIEN: Don't forget about the clean-up. We are not starting from zero, we have a very sick environment on our hands, we have to do something about all the pollution and crime and mess we inherited.
ALLEN ROCK: We also have to make a list of our resources to know how to allocate them to the different tasks we will have to perform. We have our population, we have our row materials, we have our energy sources. That is all it takes to do anything: people with skills, materials and energy.
JEAN CHRÉTIEN: Excellent. We are making progress. What are the skills we need for creating the basic needs?
PAUL MARTIN: Sir, we have a problem with that. There are a lot of 'skills' that, frankly, do not do any good to anybody.
JEAN CHRÉTIEN: Really, what are those?
PAUL MARTIN: Everybody involved with money. Anyone who does not directly contribute to production and distribution. Accountants, bankers, investors, speculators, cashiers, mint workers, etc. etc. It is a very long list.
JEAN CHRÉTIEN: That is true. Money is not a basic need, it was invented to help distribute the produced goods according to contribution. It seems that we spend more time and energy arguing about how to distribute goods than we do producing them. Is there an alternative?
BRIAN TOBIN: Actually, sir, there is. If we decided to share the produced goods equally, then we could liberate all the wasted energy and manpower that is now spent on arguing over and handling distribution. My estimate is that due to the enormous simplification of our economy, we would all be better off then most people are today.
JEAN CHRÉTIEN: Everything? Do you suggest we share all produced goods equally? But we don’t have equal needs and interests! How do you allow for individual differences?
BRIAN TOBIN: You are absolutely right, sir. What I am proposing is to put our priorities right. We have to identify those products that are needed by everyone. Our job is to make sure that every citizen’s basic needs are satisfied. We have to have control over what is required for providing adequate levels of food, housing, clothes, health, education, protection, means of transportation and communication for everybody. Beyond that – this is a free country. If some people want luxuries, they are welcome to produce those in their spare time, provided they do not harm the common good in any way – by pollution, noise, crowding, fraud or exploitation.
JEAN CHRÉTIEN: It sounds like you propose to merge Capitalism and Communism. I have to admit, it is an attractive thought: Save the best part of both systems and have some basic fairness, compassion and freedom in the Country. But what about the lazy bums? Those who would just help themselves to their share without contributing?
BRIAN TOBIN: That's true, sir, there would be some of those, inevitably. However, we just agreed that we have all those unproductive millions today who do not contribute anything to satisfying our real needs. I am sure that the number of those who would just bum along would be significantly lower.
JEAN CHRÉTIEN: How about justice? How can we tolerate that some people get a free ride without contributing?
BRIAN TOBIN: Sir, we can not avoid that. There will always be bad apples. We have them now. Just look at all the rich speculators and manipulators who are ripping off the system. Is there justice in that? We have to make sure that the system is as fair as possible. It will never be perfect.
JEAN CHRÉTIEN: True, we don't want to throw out the baby with the bath water. Our objective is to create a country with a largest number of happy citizens that we can realistically have. It would be stupid to drop the overall level of happiness just to make sure that nobody gets away with anything. We would end up exactly where we are now.
ART EGGLETON: I agree, sir. There is another point in favor: most of the lazy bums have families. We can’t punish their children by withholding their share. The children are not to blame. It would be cruel and unfair. We don't want to continue with the poverty and suffering that we have now. Also, it just occurred to me that most of the criminals would be out of business. If there is no money, we would not have bank robbers, muggers, embezzlers, thieves. Very few people would want to steal finished products that they can not convert to invisible cash. It is a lot harder to unobtrusively stockpile antique furniture or TV sets than to hide money. Also, can you see a drug trade flourishing without the cash it is based on?
JEAN CHRÉTIEN: Excellent points.
LUCIENNE ROBILLARD: Sir, I think that many of the lazy bums would become productive if we found a real place for them in the production cycle. Just look at the millions of unemployed, under-employed or those who are employed in degrading ways. If we organized production intelligently, most of those people could become enthusiastic contributors.
JEAN CHRÉTIEN: That is a very good point. This brings us to the next important question. What about unemployment? With the automation in our industry we already have a high number of people who have no jobs. If we eliminate all those unproductive occupations that have to do with money, then we will really have a lot of people with nothing to do.
BRIAN TOBIN: That is relatively easy to solve, sir. All we need to do is shorten the workday. This would be consistent with historical trends too: as our technology has been improving since the start of the industrial revolution, the workday has been shrinking steadily from 80 hours a week to the current 40, where it has been stuck the last fifty years. It does not make any sense for some people working for forty hours and some others none. The shortened workday would have another benefit: those who want luxuries will have plenty of time left to produce them.
JEAN CHRÉTIEN: You are right. We can also use the additional manpower to clean up our lakes and rivers and air, fix our roads, provide day-care, improve our education, police, justice system. There is no end of real problems to solve, gentlemen, unemployment is crazy when there is so much to do. We just have to organize the work and allocate the resources. If we have no money to argue about, we will be free to act. The reasons our previous governments couldn't achieve anything was lack of money. If we eliminated money, we eliminated our problems. All we have left to do is organize our projects: we have manpower, we have resources, we have time. Let's do it.
JOHN MANLEY: We still have a problem, sir. How about the other countries? We have a global economy now, it is all tied together. How can we eliminate money and still be able to participate?
JEAN CHRÉTIEN: That is a tricky question, gentlemen. The biggest problem we have is foreign ownership of our economy. We will have to find a way to regain our sovereignty. One way of doing it is trading off those industries that we have no immediate need for, against those that are essential. Since now we produce so many needless luxuries and instant junk, I am convinced we still have enough capacity to produce for our real needs if we reorganize intelligently. As far as trading with other countries, there is no problem: we trade in goods instead of money.
BRIAN TOBIN: I agree, sir. It makes sense to aim at self-sufficiency when our basic needs are concerned. We are a resource-rich country, we have everything we need for our basic requirements, right at home. We do not want to risk serious deprivation in necessities just because there is an upheaval somewhere on the Globe! Like the collapse of the Pacific bubble, for example. We do not want to be hostage to situations beyond our control.
LUCIENNE ROBILLARD: Yes, but wouldn’t it be an enormous task to reorganize our entire economy for self-sufficiency in basic needs?
JEAN CHRÉTIEN: Gentlemen, we were able to reorganize our entire industry for war production during the last world war. In a very short time. If we were able to do it out of fear or anger, I believe, we should be able to do it out of wisdom and compassion.
LUCIENNE ROBILLARD: There is still one problem, sir. What do we do with those of our citizens who own our industry? You can not expect them to co-operate freely and give up their control.
JEAN CHRÉTIEN: That is another tricky question. Well, we have to be reasonable. We should call a conference with the owners of our industry and agriculture and explain it to them that the country needs their co-operation. They are Canadian citizens too, you know. I am sure they love their country just as much as we do and once they see how everybody would be better off with the new system, they would not oppose it. Those who would, well, we can not expect a country to stay miserable just to satisfy a few no good selfish bastards. If they do not want to be Canadian, they can go somewhere else. A society, gentlemen, is based on consensus of the community. If the community wants equal sharing, that is what the community shall have. Let's get started on the details. We have a lot of work to do."
[ June 24, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]