Books and documents:
Agustí Chalaux de Subirà, Brauli Tamarit Tamarit.
Agustí Chalaux de Subirà.
Agustí Chalaux de Subirà.
Agustí Chalaux de Subirà.
Magdalena Grau, Agustí Chalaux.
Chapter 9. The subtle bondage of culture.
The features of anonymous currency foster also monetization, mercantilization
and prostitution of many human features, even of the most immaterial ones
(training, information, research, health, law, politics, art, sex, spirit...),
while, paradoxically, they do not help to solve satisfactorily the most
basic functions of currency which would be to foster the exchange of goods
(not evils) and services (not disservices) and to allow the equilibrium
between production and consumption-investment in complex societies which
cannot use bartering.
One of the fundamental problems of a change of orientation of western civilization
towards a respect for the other cultures on the planet and towards nature,
is the lack of critical and creative capacity of the «culture creators»,
submitted to more or less confessable dependences either from the States
(public) or from companies (private), which establish and favour projects
in support of the system.
The failure in the development of the so-called «backward countries»
shows not only an exterminating cultural and economic neocolonialism, but
also the poorness of western culture, which identifies «good life»
and «standard of living» with the production and possession
of things. Not all commercial goods (which increase the GNP), are objective
goods for persons, for society and for nature, but in many cases they partake
of an evil or are one (detriment to health, exhaustion of resources, control
systems...). The same can be said of «services». Freedom cannot
confine itself to choosing among some given options, but, mainly,
it must allow to create new options.
The economic area which is mostly gaining importance in «developed»
countries, above the secondary sector (industry) and primary sector (raw
materials), is the so-called tertiary sector (services). This is a compound
of very heterogeneous activities which go from bureaucracy to liberal professions;
from transport and communications to politics; from the cleaning to the
data processing services...
Another important classification of economics is the one separating
«public» from «private» activities. So with respect
to the tertiary sector we will have «public services» and «private
A last distinction, not so usual but not less important to try to sort
out this complex sector, is the one separating profitmaking activities
from non-profit activities.
The lack of theoretical and practical clearness of these different statutes
has, as everybody knows and suffers, great social, political and economical
In the discussions on public services and private services it would
be necessary to establish, if we can, similar actions (supported by the
same market dynamics) such as the production of potatoes and the assistance
to the sick, building houses and becaming a mayor, producing cars and becoming
a judge, printing books and being teacher...
It is usually considered that public services depend on some institution
of the State, which, as a theoretical representative of the common good,
takes up the service because it is of public utility, away from market
laws (free or with political prices); and which is operated by public officials.
Private services on the other hand are commercialized, that is, the
user pays what the market, made up by professionals or the owners of the
The result is that the user, in some cases, for example the health services,
must pay every month an important amount to the Social Security, where
he receives a poor service, because of bureaucracy and massification, and
must also pay for private medicine -sometimes, the same doctor who sees
him off in three minutes in the Social Security's surgery room. This is
the same, with its peculiar forms, between public and private schools,
public and private communications means, private and public police (security
services), insurance and private and public pensions, private and public
transports, private and public research...
Apparently these are a sort of services that need freedom to operate
well, both for those carrying them out and, in some cases, for those using
them. These services can easily degenerate, for several reasons, both when
they become state operated and bureaucratic and when they become commercialized
Can we look for statutes different from the present ones to bring about
gratuity -available to everybody without discrimination- and at the same
time quality and freedom, both for the professional and for the user? How
can we apply such a model in practice, not to fall into impositions or
privileges, nor in new ineffective bureaucracies?
All these activities have another very important problem: decisions
are taken by those having money, who take decisions in the field of «knowledge»,
and in one way or the other take decisions in the consciences of people.
The discussion between public (common good) and private (private profits)
is wrong. The State has become a private good, a corporation defending
its privileges (and those of the great individuals dominating it), and
having all the coercive means (laws, police, armies, judges...) that small
individuals don't have. A struggle has started, or a market row, between
two «individuals», sometimes with common interests, sometimes
with opposed interests, exercising the control of «knowledge»
on the population. The actual freedom of users lies only in the possibility
of choosing between private and public medicine, between private and public
schools, between private and public information... Each one of them shows
advantages and drawbacks, but both are terribly jealous of free medicine,
free schools, free radios..., which do not show dominating or subjugating
approaches. The user has no possibility to choose another type of service
and, in some cases, he can even be penalized or go to prison for trying.
Why are these irrational structures maintained, presented under the name
of «Welfare State»?
And here is the latest device: the vested interests. What is «public»
is paid by all those who are compelled to pay taxes, but the main systems
for deciding how public money is to be spent, how public services must
be organized, are usually prostituted by legal and illegal, but real, situations.
And any prostitution implies paying a price which increases with the increase
of the power of the prostituted person. As far as law is concerned, the
prostitution of democracy starts with the electoral system and with the
incredible financing system which compels all parties to sell themselves
to whoever has enough money to pay for the huge amounts of the electoral
campaigns. Industrialists and bankers are the ones legally financing parties!
If they win, there is a generous appreciation, if they lose there is the
enslavement of the debtor. Legally, almost nothing can be proved, but everybody
thinks and «knows». Bribery and corruption are the most pathetic
reality of power. They only become public when there is an interest in
ruining a competitor by creating a scandal.
Justice, the third independent branch, designed to protect right and
to defend citizens from oppression and power, is bound by similar pitfalls,
subjected to the «public» (by the executive power) and to the
«private» (by bribery and by social classes to which many of
its officials belong).
Numerus clausus excludes thousands of professionals prepared
to improve these services in quantity and quality, and competitive examinations
for the posts of officials not always allow the access of the best prepared
persons for their specific human relations, but that of those able to pass
retention tests which show nothing of the ability to practice a profession.
Besides public and private services, the tertiary sector assembles a
number of cultural, apparently free, activities: artists (writers, poets,
painters, sculptors, architects, graphic engineers, publicists, actors,
audiovisual directors...). All these cultural creators are very difficult
to evaluate with respect to their productivity and usually depend on the
difficult world of «editors» and «productors»,
of promotions and speculation. They have a great social influence, both
to justify and maintain society, or to subvert it. Both their bureaucratization
and their mercantilization ensure the death of transforming culture.
To complete this review it is necessary to position also what we call
non-profit bodies and activities. The aim of these bodies is to benefit
their associates or a given social sector, without distributing monetary
benefits in the activity being carried out. Non-profit bodies, without
profit motives, move money (such as sports societies or savings banks),
but benefits must be reinvested. There are no shareholders, only associates.
These bodies cannot be called public, (even if they carry out a public
role but they are not state-controlled) nor private (even if they are managed
by individuals, but they are non-profit bodies). Some of them are even
considered «public law (private) corporations». Many of these
bodies live partly on the associates' fees, partly on public grants, and
partly on private sponsors. Therefore, they can not always maintain their
There is another type of «services», half legal, half illegal,
which some consider free, and others «compulsory», which are
related to sex and love. For those considering prostitution as a free and
natural phenomenon, this must become a public service or a «secure»
and «dignified» private service. This is possibly one of the
most representative cases among the ones we have mentioned. One thing is
to accept that to make a living we must sell our labour force, and a different
matter is that we must sell ourselves (or to objectify a part of ourselves).
Love, sex, like spirit and conscience, are too special to put a price on
them, to commercialize them without destroying the individual and his/her
self-respect. And this is not usually done only to survive. If everybody
had the means to live with dignity, it would not be so easy for children,
teenagers and adults to let a price be put on their intimity.
And spirit and sex go side by side. Prostitution of spirit, with the
purchase of religions, is to be affixed to the prostitution of politics,
of culture, of art. Dark money causes everything to decay in these areas,
in the great churches and in sects. All this «superstructure»
has the ability to stir up and to lead the deepest yearnings for freedom,
or the ability to «alienate» individuals and peoples. This
is its power, and those «paying» for it know perfectly well
the profitability of their sunk money investment!
After all these years of experiments with State planning we have no
other option than to accept that the market, under given conditions and
places, can be a good mechanism for the production and distribution of
wealth. But we must state very clearly what these conditions are. And,
still more, we must separate what can be and what cannot be commercialized,
because it produces secondary effects opposed to what our aims are.
Competitiveness, if it is not unfair, appears to be a good system to
develop «competition», the ability of a responsible effectiveness
in any «economic» field. But we must acknowledge that its basic
condition, loyalty, is not usually fulfilled. Besides, competitiveness
is not always motive for profit, nor the throwing out of the losers, nor
the commercialization of all natural realities and all human activities.
There may be «professional competitiveness» without «trade
competitiveness» when there are other inducements beyond profit making.
Therefore we must put limits to the market, beyond which its effectiveness
function becomes perturbing and hostile.
In the same way, communization may be very appropriate to protect and
improve natural and human spaces, where the non-productivist side of life
may develop. But communization is not a synonymous with State control,
and when this is stressed and goes out of its own field of action it also
creates very important malfunctions.
Which are, then, the particular and complementary areas of the market
and of the «community»? of freedom and solidarity? of private
and of public? of profit-making and of non-profit? And after we have defined
them, how can we help the particular dynamics of every area without factual
interferences or dependences of one on the other?
The market manages well the needs of a quantified exchange within a
framework of abundance, of growth, of lack of limits. But reality has limits,
more or less evident, more or less immediate, but they are there. We do
not want to be exhaustive, and keeping in mind the set out problem and
the possibilities of a practical solution, there may be three great areas
which, at present, we perceive as spaces which either must be de-commercialized
or must be protected against a possible commercialization.
Nature, natural resources, especially the fixed ones (such
as the land), the non-renewable ones (such as fossil minerals)) and the
non-recycleable ones, are difficult to commercialize without jeopardizing
the survival of life on our planet.
Human beings, their interpersonal relationships, their cultural and
communal bodies, are also difficult to commercialize because they are difficult
to measure (much more qualitative than quantitative) and because the power
of money can convert them into very dangerous power weapons against people
through the manipulation and alienation of their intimity.
Money in itself, being the main instrument of the commercialization
of reality, becomes a deadly weapon when it is commercialized, when it
is allowed to becomes autonomous from the market reality (and, in some
aspects, from the community) because it upsets and knocks the real market
and society off balance (monetary inflation and deflation; speculation
of securities and currencies).
But who, and how, must watch over this de-commercialization of nature,
people and currency? Which are the limits of the «community»,
and, above all, of the one which historically aspires to being the representative?
If the market must have limitations, so must the State. With all its
governement institutions, at all levels and in all areas, this one should
not interfere in the market dynamics in an unfair competition: the services
offered should be free and supplied by the State, it should not have trade
companies, neither for production nor for services.
For the management of natural resources it would be necessary to find
a way to add to the cost of communal raw materials a «green tax»
for the protection of resources, for the research of substitutes, to foster
the recycling of waste, and to avoid pollution. The land should become
communal property (not state-owned) and should be offered for long term
hire for very definite uses. This would improve the protection of resources
and also a rational and ecological development of the land.
A suitable currency could play a very important role to avoid its own
malfunctions and to make this decommercialization plan of some areas workable.
It is quite possible that without a monetary instrument other than the
present one, any of these areas could be condemned to failure if there
was any attempt to change them. Money will go on flowing freely and darkly
from one area to the other, to bribe officials, to help political options
to win, to manipulate information, to stop inventions and research, to
appease consciences, to pervert culture, to speculate on land and on money
If we want to separate commercial and non-commercial areas, we need
tools to help make the distinction. To this effect we must see if it is
possible to introduce a monetary system which, besides being personalized
(i.e.: leaving traces and appointing liabilities) it is also adjustable
to each area, field and activity, and that does not allow to break each
one's limits with impunity. As we shall see in the following chapters,
we may imagine a system with some sort of specialized «currencies»:
one «currency» to be used only to finance what cannot be commercialized
and another one for that which belongs to trade; one «currency»
to prove the lawfulness of the exchange; another one to help, beyond bureaucracy,
the communalization of the land and the application of green taxes on the
extraction of raw materials and on pollution...
To underline the importance of this subject, we shall
end up with some impressive affirmations which, from inside each profession
-mass communicators and jurists-, crudely show the weight of commercialization
and of officialization.
At the beginning of the century, Joan Puig i Ferreter (1926) very clearly
conveyed the state of bondage of culture. «The journalists who are
payed by an industrial company are in a worse position than servants. Our
bondage is more revolting. I would happily sell my body's services. I would
like to know a trade: bookbinding, to make cardboard boxes...-to give eight
hours work to earn a living. I think it would make me happy. But I cannot
bear without resentment, sadness and bitterness, the bondage of the soul
and of intelligence1».
«The waterwheel donkey gets water to irrigate the fields. What
do we irrigate? We irrigate foolishness, ignorance, lies and bewilderment.
We help other people's businesses, we act as stepping stones for all the
daredevils and crooks that are in the world; we bow to everybody else's
needs, we praise the idiots and the brass idols. On top of us, on top of
our stupid servitude, grows wealth, glory, vanity, authority, oppression
and crime; and we waste away with destitution, oblivion and resentment.
And we dare to call ourselves intellectuals!... And we are bought off with
tickets for the bullfights [...], charity performances, bricklayers' wages
and aristocratic dinners2».
if many things have changed, still today there is a subtle bondage of culture
which comes out in different ways, not less corrosive, both in the «private»
and in the «public» domain. The known linguist Noam Chomsky
(1988) is straightforward in his analysis of the system of mass communication
in the USA, a country which is considered a model keeper of freedom.
«The means for mass communication in the USA [...] allow -and
even foster- strong debates, criticism and disagreements, as long as they
keep loyal to the system of assumptions and principles which make up the
consensus of the elites, a system so powerful that it can be interiorized
to a large extent, without even being aware of it3».
«Public opinion is exposed to powerful and convincing messages from
above, and is unable to communicate significantly through the means of
communication in reply to these messages [...]. The leaders have usurped
an enormous amount of political power, and have reduced the people's control
on the political system using the means of communication to produce support,
consent and an evident confusion in public opinion -mentioning W. Lance
He goes on: «In the means of communication, as in other large
institutions, those not showing the exact values and viewpoints will be
considered «irresponsible», «ideologists», or,
in some way, aberrant, and will show a tendency to be laid aside. [...]
Those who accommodate themselves, perhaps honestly, will be free to express
themselves with little control from the leaders, and will be able to assert
truly that they are not being constrained to adapt themselves5».
«A journalist not wishing to work hard may survive, and even gain
respectability, by publishing information (official or confidential) coming
from the usual sources; these opportunities may be denied to those not
content with transmitting the interpretations of the State propaganda as
if this were reality6».
«In short, the means of mass communication in the USA are effective
and powerful ideologic bodies, which carry out a propagandist job of support
to the system through their independence from the market forces, the interiorized
assumptions and the self-criticism, and without a significant open coercion7».
The decisive world of communication suffers these evils, but it is not
alone. The Department of Justice, at least in Spain, is a good example
of what we are talking about. Joan Roig Plans (19918),
a lawyer, ends a recent study saying that «without a shock solution,
it is difficult to get out of the present hole we are in».
«The lack of quality of the professional work is very much related
to a scarce or nonexistent vocation, as a consequence of the fact that
the profession was chosen for its possibility of offering a job with the
stability of a public official or, in the case of free professionals, by
commercializing the offices. In any case, we are causing the main work-motivation
to be the obtention of an income, rather than a consciousness of service
or, even a taste for a well-done job».
He also considers that «to litigate is for the wealthy or for
the desperate who are in limited situations». «The high cost
of litigating causes citizens (mainly those with a limited income) to waive
the defence of their rights in court. Evidently this benefits illicit interests.
On the other hand, this also implies that, with money at hand, through
the threat of a litigation, concessions may be illegally and paradoxically
obtained from those having difficulty in meeting the expenses». «The
system of fees to pay the work of free professionals participating in the
Administration of Justice, is not fair, because it rewards mainly according
to the importance of the matter».
He considers that «an ineffective Administration of Justice fosters
the defence of interests and the realization of rights out of the legal
ways and, therefore, with a high risk of arbitrariness. Besides, it produces
in the citizens a sense of impunity of unlawful behaviours, disappointment
and scepticism, and, in short, the loss of collective illusions, which
are essential for a solid wellbeing».
The courage of some of the suggested options, is surprisingly positive:
«fostering the creation of mixed deontologic courts, with members
from different judicial professions and with disciplinary jurisdiction
on the professionals of all of them, ensures that the impunity which may
be produced by corporative reactions is avoided» and «that
the work of barristers and procurators be paid by the State, with the absolute
prohibition to receive any sort of private payment for jobs of judicial
Puig i Ferrater (1926), «Servitud», Edicions 62, Barcelona,
1985, p. 66.
Chomsky and Edward S, Herman (1988), «Los guardianes de la libertad»,
Crítica, Barcelona, 1990, p. 348.
Roig i Plans, «Alternatives per a un funcionament més eficaç
de L'Administració de Justícia», a paper submitted
in «Aula Provença», Barcelona, 14.2.1991.