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The Zeitgeist Movement


I recently read the statement of principles of the Zeitgeist Movement.

The first half, which criticizes the current economic system, seems to be valid more or less (there are points I don't know enough to be certain of). However, the recommendations in the second half seem to have basic flaws.

It proposes that we should entrust a computer system to decide how much to make of every sort of product. Given a well-formulated problem, with a choice between a limited set of products, and a clear idea of what they are useful for and who wants what, it might be feasible for a program to calculate an optimal solution. But real life is far more complicated than that. It might be feasible to calculate how much resources to put into "growing chocolate", but how could any centralized system decide how much to produce of the thousands of different kinds of chocolate candies, chocolate pastries, chocolate puddings. Each person might like one of these more than another because of subtle differences in taste and texture, which that person would be hard put to describe.

The article also points out that societies can change values. That is true, but we don't know how to predict how they will change, let alone how to change them to order. Meanwhile, there are tremendous actual differences in values. Some value systems, such as the ones that motivate "honor killings", deserve to be morally condemned and rejected. But there are many other variations in values within the bounds of decency.

Also, I saw no solution for dealing with one aspect of human nature: the tendency to compete for the admiration or envy of the neighbors. This drives competitive consumption, which is a major cause of waste. Wise people opt out of this, but if we want to lead everyone to opt out, I don't think exhortations to wisdom will suffice. We would need a method that works. I don't know of one, but I don't see that the Zeitgeist Movement does either.

copyright (c) 2009 Richard Stallman
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