chapter four


© Andy Turnbull, 2005


Some metasystems form themselves and others are formed by other metasystems. The metasystems of the Military Industrial Complex, Religion and Trade must have existed before the army occupied the village, but it was in the occupied village that they flowered and parts of them combined to form the Establishment.

The metasystem we now call the Military Industrial Complex probably began to form before the army occupied the village because bandits, and later the army, may have bought weapons and other equipment from village craftsmen or from traders who were based in or who visited the village. After the army takes the village we can assume that it will maintain its relationship with the traders and craftsmen it has been dealing with, and will try to make friends with others.

Whether they like it or not the traders and craftsmen who deal with the army have a stake in its welfare and, along with The Baron and his officers and soldiers, they are part of the Military Industrial Complex. Other members of the Complex are the contractor or labor supervisor who builds and maintains the army's fort, The Baron's palace and the homes of the officers, traders who may or may not deal with the army but who depend on the army to patrol the roads they travel, civilian employees of the army and servants and even some privileged slaves of the officers.

None of these people want The Baron to go to war but they all profit from the existence of the army and, by extension, from the threat of war and robbery. Even rogue bandits who prowl outside the village are part of the metasystem, because they justify the soldiers' patrols and the taxes the army levies on traders and villagers. The bandits don't benefit from the association but, because The Baron does, they are part of the metasystem.

The army will harass the bandits but, because some of them may be friends of the soldiers and because they justify The Baron's rule, it will be careful not to eliminate them or drive them too far from the village.

The second of the root metasystems is Religion. It probably got its start among hunters and gatherers but it was not until the army occupied the village that shamans and priests gained real power. Individual religions may be systems but, even though they may not recognize the same god or gods, all religions are part of the same metasystem.

The metasystem of Religion gained power when the army took the village. Even if the soldiers don't respect the local gods or spirits the local shaman is in a strong position because he can be a powerful ally of the army. Through most of history armies have supported religions, and vice versa, in a mutual back-scratching arrangement.

The Baron can support a shaman with armed force. A shaman can support The Baron by telling people that the gods or the spirits want them to do thus and so, thus giving the demands of the army and the aristocrats -- and of the shamans -- a semblance of legitimacy. For the past several thousand years gods have supported both sides in most wars and churches have supervised the slaughter, enslavement and plunder of aboriginal people around the world.

As it develops in the occupied village the metasystem of Religion will include all the shamans or priests, most of the officers and some of the soldiers of the army, traders who may deal in religious fetishes, craftsmen who may make the priests' robes or other equipment, builders who may build a temple and anyone else who has an interest in seeing the populace controlled by the priest or shaman. In the modern world, for example, nearly everyone has a reason to support any church that teaches that theft is a sin. Even thieves benefit from such a church, because if theft were not seen as a sin they might have more competition.

Religion has always been important and the root of many important systems and we will get back to it later. For now, we just want to identify it as one of the three roots of The System.

Traders played a major role in the development of civilization and they must have been the core of one of the root metasystems.

The first members of the metasystem of trade and traders are the gatherers who collect the raw materials and the craftsmen who make the goods the traders trade. Many of these are also the traders' customers, but any other customers are also part of the metasystem. If the shamans are good customers or if worshippers require supplies or equipment that must be purchased from traders, religion may also be part of the metasystem of trade. Traders also form a metasystem with other traders because they will get more business if they cooperate to set up a market, rather than trade from scattered trading booths, and because they will cooperate to form a caravan for mutual protection and assistance on long trips.

Even the bandits that the traders fear are part of the metasystem because they deal with some traders, rob others and possibly sell their loot to still others. In fact the danger of bandits is a benefit to traders because it justifies high prices and it drives the traders to form a metasystem with the army. This has often been a close association and it is even probable that, in some cases, bandit armies have taken villages at the suggestion or even the invitation of traders. In the 18th Century, the British East India Company used its own army to take control of India.


Up to this point the metasystems have been separate but there is considerable overlap and interpenetration. After the army occupies the village the three will be thrust together and, while each metasystem will maintain its individual interests, the wealthiest members of each one will combine into a separate metasystem that we call 'the Establishment.'

Membership in the Establishment will include The Baron and his officers and all other wealthy members of the Military Industrial Complex but, because this is a club of rich and powerful men, it will not include common soldiers. Wealthy craftsmen and traders who control goods that bring The Baron cash revenues will also be members of the Establishment and so will some of the agents appointed by The Baron as civil administrators and tax collectors. Some of the tax collectors will be wealthy because they steal some of the taxes they collect. Others will be wealthy because they help The Baron to decide which craftsmen will be hired to make weapons and equipment for the army, which traders will get which business and who can be exempted from taxes and regulations. As in modern times some of the people who get special treatment will show their gratitude in concrete, or perhaps golden, form.

The village shaman or priest will also be a member of the Establishment and so will anyone who can suggest or manage ways to increase The Baron's and the officers' wealth, power or security.

Family ties may also give some people entry into or association with the Establishment. A cousin of The Baron or of one of his senior officers may have no official rank, but he will have influence. The son of an officer might marry the daughter of a civil administrator or a trader or an artisan and, if he does, the whole of the bride's family gains power. At a lower level, even a slave might gain some power if a soldier falls in love with his daughter.

For a while there will be a distinction between the invaders and those villagers who are members of the Establishment, but this will fade. In time, the important distinction will be between rich and poor.

The Establishment has no official function and even today some members of the group would like to pretend that it does not exist but it is real and it has a function -- which is mostly to make sure that the members of the Establishment are rich and powerful and that other people are not. In a village with an establishment a man who is born rich has a good chance to die rich, no matter how stupid or lazy he is; and a man who is born poor will probably die poor, no matter how hard he works.

The Establishment is cohesive but it has no formal organization and no common plan. Some members of the Establishment may be competitors and even enemies of other members of the Establishment but, whether they like each other or not, all members of the Establishment have a common interest. They may squabble among themselves but they will present a united front to outsiders.

The development of the Establishment marks a significant point in the evolution of a society because up to this point human societies were mostly amorphous and cohesive. Afterward, even in cultures that have not been recently conquered, they are stratified and divided.

For practical purposes we can think of the Establishment as the executive branch of The System. As it develops it will consolidate The System's hold on the village and it will invent private ownership of land, lifelong slavery and farms.


Most hunters and gatherers hold land in common but the army will see neighboring tribesmen as enemies or competitors and it will mount guard over the fields, groves and berry patches that surround the village. As they guard their source of food the soldiers will come to appreciate its value and the officers will consider the land they guard to be their own. It may not be farmed yet, but the 'owners' will claim all the produce.

And, sooner or later, they will establish farms. This used to be considered the beginning of 'civilization' but that was because its significance was misinterpreted.

Most early archaeologists and pre-historians saw the process usually described as the 'agricultural revolution' as a positive factor. Before the development of farms, they thought, life was a continual struggle and hunters and gatherers must have lived on the edge of starvation. With farms, they believed, humans developed a food surplus and some people were free to invent music, art, poetry and technology.

But the event they used to call the 'agricultural revolution' was the development of grain farming in the Middle East and we now know that, rather than a step forward, it was a curse and a disaster for most of humanity.

And it was not the invention of agriculture because, by this time, the first farms were at least 1,000 years old.

Modern anthropologists believe that agriculture began more than 10,000 years ago when someone living near the middle of Africa discovered that if you eat only part of a yam and throw the rest away, the part you throw away will grow into a new yam. If you throw the tag ends of all the yams you eat into the same field, you have a whole field of yams the next year.

The first domesticated food crop seems to have been the white Guinea yam, Dioscorea rotundata[1] and it is quite possible that the first farm began as a garbage heap.

That was the start of a golden age for mankind because yam gardens produce a great deal of convenient food for very little work. In later years the people who began with yams also grew oil palms, fruit trees and other food crops; and every one was a benefit.

We know that in yam-farming cultures today the gardens are often owned and managed by women. As the women gathered food in groups they may have worked their farms in groups but the work was light and, as in gathering, children could help.

Yams are also easy to harvest and store because, essentially, you don't. Grain has to be harvested when it's ripe and then stored somewhere but yams can be left in the ground until you need them. The ones that are not dug up and eaten over the winter will spawn a new crop of yams next summer. Working hours in a yam garden are short so the women still had time to gather wild foods, and their men were able to hunt.

This was a time of plenty for most of humanity and it was perhaps because they had plenty of food and time to spare that people of this era found a lot of new kinds of food to eat and invented better tools for hunting and gathering.

It was in this era that our ancestors invented hooks and nets and traps to catch fish, traps to catch land animals and the bow and arrow for hunting. People in some areas learned to eat snails and shellfish and to make some plants edible by boiling them.

They learned to harvest wild grains and to mash them with rocks and to boil the meal into porridge. Probably about the same time and possibly as part of the same process, they learned to make beer. They learned to make baskets to store grain and clay pots to cook it in and to smoke meat and fish for storage.[2]

But people who farmed yams did not build huge stone temples and palaces, so we don't think they were 'civilized.' Most of the cultures we consider to be 'civilized' were based on grain and, until the army took the village, grain was not worth farming. Like Australian Aboriginals, who do not maintain farms but who carry seeds of useful plants as they travel and who plant them near good campgrounds, the people of the craft village probably understood agriculture but they did not need it and they did not want it because hunting and gathering provides a better variety of food for less work.

But the army can use slaves to work farms, and the army needs a store of food in case of a siege. In the Middle East, in the days before refrigeration, grain was the only food that could be stored.

And with the army in charge, members of the Establishment can use slaves. Through the ages most farms have been worked by slaves and in some times and places -- including Roman latafundia, the sugar plantations of early colonial Jamaica and the cotton plantations of the American south -- men and women were bred and worked like animals.

This is not the first human slavery because the army probably used slaves to build forts and carry equipment, but that was different because the army used relatively few slaves and probably released them when the work was done. Farms can use many slaves, and the slave who works a farm is probably enslaved for life.

At some times and places serfs replaced slaves on many farms, but serfdom may be worse than slavery. Serfs work with less supervision than slaves but, in a world where land is 'owned,' men who don't know how to live as hunters and gatherers are still subject to the owners of the land.

And while slaves are an investment, serfs are not. If crops fail the owner of slaves must feed them anyway, but serfs feed themselves and if they can't produce enough food to pay their rent and to eat, they can be left to starve.

Serfdom is a very practical system in a world in which there are people to spare.

The development of grain farming was good for The System because it created a culture of slavery but -- even aside from slavery -- it created a cascade of problems for humanity.[3]

One is that while grain farming produced large quantities of food it gave control of that food to the people who controlled the farms. This was a benefit to priests and aristocrats but a curse to the common people. The second problem is that farming reduced the variety of food available to most people, including the farmers themselves.

If farmers grow grain they eat grain, but one kind of grain alone is not a balanced diet. Since physical anthropologists have had radio-carbon and other techniques to date human remains and the skill to deduce the health of the living person from the state of the skeleton, they have learned that most hunters and gatherers lived longer and were healthier than most farmers.[4]

Hunters and gatherers have a balanced diet because they eat hundreds of different plants, animals and eggs, but farmers raise only a few crops. Anthropologist Jared Diamond cites a archeological site at which hunters and gatherers left traces of 157 species of food plants.[5]

Yam farmers have a balanced diet because they also hunt and gather. They can because they are free and because yam farms, and the palm groves that were developed later, take little of a farmer's time. Even if some of the early grain farmers were nominally free, gathering is women's work but the wives of grain farmers have to stay home to grind grain and to make bread.

And where the land is dominated by aristocrats even a free farmer might not be allowed to hunt for meat because, as in most of Europe during the middle ages and even in modern times, the rulers of a farming community may claim the forest and wild animals as their private property.

This may be a legacy from the days of the occupied village. If the hunters and gatherers of the area hold a grudge against the army they will steal or perhaps burn crops, if they can, and the army will see them as enemies. Because hunters and gatherers are enemies, the army and the aristocrats who control the land will outlaw hunting and gathering.

A ban on hunting saves the pleasures of the chase for the rulers and, whether by accident or design, it reinforces the power of land-owners.

If anyone can hunt then anyone can live free in the woods and no-one has to be a slave or a serf. If the common people are not allowed to hunt they must stay in the villages and on the farms, and they will always be subject to the whims of their masters.

The development of farms also gave us a disease problem. Anthropologist Hugh Brody says hunters and gatherers seldom suffer from disease, partly because they live in small families in small communities where bacteria have little opportunity to mutate into new forms. Farmers live in large families in large communities, which give bacteria more opportunity to mutate.

More important; hunters and gatherers store little food and, because they often move around, their campsites are left empty for months at a time. Farmers store grain and other food by the ton and they live the year round in the same houses where they store the food.

Stored grain attracts rats and mice which in turn attract fleas and other biting insects, many of which can spread disease. Further, farmers share their homesteads and sometimes their homes with domestic animals. Brody says that many of our most damaging diseases are actually transfers from animals. We got measles, tuberculosis and smallpox from cattle, the flu from pigs and ducks (and, more recently, chickens) whooping cough from pigs and dogs and at least one form of malaria from birds.[6]

Despite health problems the human population increased explosively after the development of farming. Anthropologist Marvin Harris estimates that the population of the Middle East increased from about 100,000 to about 3.2 million people in the 4,000 years from 8000 to 4000 BC. He suggests that this was caused by the switch from a high-protein diet of meat, nuts and a wide variety of vegetables to a high-carbohydrate diet based on grain.

Harris says women won't ovulate unless 20 to 25% of their body weight is fat and, while they are lactating, they will not build much fat on the kind of high-protein diet that most hunters and gatherers live on. Among the !Kung, for example, mothers normally breast-feed their children for about four years and they don't get pregnant again until the child is weaned.

But women on high-carbohydrate diets gain weight even while they are breast-feeding. One study found that nursing women in third-world countries where the diet consists mostly of starchy grain and root crops tend to get pregnant about every 18 months, even if they are still nursing.[7]

Harris argues that the increase in population and improvements in farming technique go hand in hand. Population growth demands the development of more intensive farming techniques, which produce more food, which spurs another increase in population.

Farmers' lack of freedom may be another factor in population growth. Hunters and gatherers have a full social life, with lots of communal singing and dancing and parties. Slaves and serfs are not encouraged to meet in groups or to party together and when a man and woman are alone in their hut without books or television, they have few choices for entertainment. Like other domestic animals, slaves and serfs are encouraged to breed.

Systems encourage breeding because they use people and the more they have the bigger they can grow. Armies need big populations to fill and refill the ranks, religions want lots of worshipers and traders want lots of customers. If crops fail the serfs and peasants of an overpopulated country may starve, but that's not a problem for The System.[8]

Condoms and other methods of birth control were known in ancient Egypt and other cultures but, for most of history, they were forbidden in much of Europe.

Good crops and animal nature may also help explain over-breeding among farmers. Naturalists know that in natural conditions any animal will breed to the limit of its food supply and we know that, in some years, farmers will have an over-supply of food. It should be no surprise that, in some years, farmers produce a lot of children.

Whatever the reason, where there are farms there is sooner or later overpopulation. This is good for The System because where there are few people they can live as individuals. A large population needs a system and the larger the population, the more power individuals must yield to The System.

The development of farms also created a potential for famine because farm crops are vulnerable to pests and disease, like the potato blight that struck Ireland a few generations ago. Writer/anthropologist Jack Weatherford counts 111 famines in France between the years 1371 and 1791.[9]

One problem is that farm crops are monocultures, with acres and acres of the same plant, and when a pest or disease gets into a farm field it can run wild. Plants in a natural environment are less vulnerable because the disease that affects one plant will probably not affect the different plant beside it. Pests are not often a problem in nature because the plants that pests feed on are separated by others that harbor predators that feed on the pests.

Even if disease or pests could destroy natural crops that would be no problem to hunters and gatherers, because no one plant is so important to them that they can not do without it. Most farmers depend on a few crops and a disease that affects one crop -- such as Ireland's potato blight -- may be a disaster.

Farmers are also vulnerable to drought, where hunters and gatherers may not be. If rains fail hunters and gatherers may have to change their diet but, as Lee found when he studied the !Kung, a drought that is a disaster for farmers barely rates as a minor inconvenience to hunters and gatherers. Even a plague of locusts would be no problem to hunters and gatherers because they would feast on the locusts and the locusts could not eat the nuts and roots that are staples of a hunter-gatherer's diet. The development of farms also increased the stratification of society because some people owned the farms, some managed them and others worked them. In feudal Europe 500 years ago and still, in some parts of the world, almost all farms were 'owned' by aristocrats -- most of them soldiers -- and share-cropped by serfs.

Sugar plantations in the Caribbean and cotton plantations in the American South supported the trade in African slaves. The villages of Great Britain were decimated by the English 'enclosures' and the Scottish 'clearances,' both of which were, essentially, the taking of common lands by nobles.

In the modern world we have some 'family farms' which are managed and worked by the owners but large areas of Europe are still controlled by an upper class of land-owners and more and more North American farms are owned by corporations, run by managers and worked by wage labor.

One way and another the spread of farming has been unstoppable. In historic times large areas of Africa, South America, Australia, the United States and Canada were taken by conquest from hunters and gatherers and some primitive farmers and, even now, aboriginals and peasants in African, Amazon and Asian rain forests are being displaced as the land is cleared for use by farmers.[10]

We might even argue that the development of farming led to a world at war. That sounds like a stretch, but consider.

We have good reason be believe that farming led to an increase in population, and that population pressure can lead to war. We also know that the practice of farming made good farmland valuable, and that many wars have been fought to gain control of good farmland.

There is also the sometimes-disputed suggestion that violence and aggression may be linked to diet. In the early 1980's sociologist Stephen Schoenthaler of California State University at Stanislaus began giving vitamin and mineral supplements to prison inmates, and reported that fist fights and other antisocial behavior decreased by about 40%. Schoenthaler's work is less than definitive but in the late 1990's physiologist Bernard Gesh of Oxford university ran a controlled experiment with vitamins, minerals and omega-6 oil in the English prison system, and got comparable results. The relationship between diet and antisocial behavior is not accepted by all psychiatrists but the Society for Orthomolecular Health Medicine now counts about 200 American members.[11]

Granted that the connection is not universally accepted, it is known that most hunters and gatherers are relatively gentle and even-tempered and that many farm-based cultures have been and are warlike. It's not conclusive, but it makes you think.

The spread of farming and the institution of land ownership were not benefits to humanity but they were to The System, because they gave power to land-owners who, naturally, support the systems that give them power. That power is virtually absolute because if the owners of the farms also control the army they can feed their supporters and deny food to others.


If The Baron conquers enough villages he will become a king and the village establishment of officers, agents and priests will evolve into a government. The first time this happened was probably six or eight thousand years ago and governments have evolved through a lot of forms since then, but some things ha ve remained constant.

One is that most of the individuals that form the government have interests that concern them more than government. In the occupied village an army officer -- like The Baron himself -- would have worried about his own welfare and the safety of his family first, the welfare of the army and of the men in his command second and the welfare of the village third.

A villager turned agent of The Baron would have worried about his own and his family's safety and welfare first, his masters and friends and other agents second and the village third. Priests worried about their own and their family's welfare, the welfare and prestige of the church (and perhaps even the prestige or happiness of their god) and then the welfare of the village.

And of course, every member of the Establishment of the occupied village was aware that his or her welfare was closely tied to that of other members of the Establishment. The officers of the army depended on the tax collectors and civil administrators to provide the fort and the supplies that their soldiers needed to protect them, the tax collectors depended on the army for protection and both depended on priests to convince the people that The Baron or the King or the warlord had been appointed by the gods to rule them and that rebellion against The System would incur the wrath of the gods.

But in this network of relationships nobody really ruled the village or, later, the kingdom. By convention we say that the king rules but in fact, most kings had little contact with the common people and, in historic times, we know that some kings did not take an active hand in ruling.

We might also say that the agents or tax gatherers or civil administrators ruled, but that's not true either. They had official functions but their primary concern was their own welfare and, often, maneuvering to enhance their own standing within the Establishment. Their concern for the welfare of the kingdom or 'the people' was marginal, at best.

In fact the real government is not by people at all but, rather, by the relationships between members of the Establishment and the solidarity which dictates that things be done primarily for the benefit of the most powerful citizens.

In general that means for the benefit of the Establishment but in most cultures people who are not actually members of the Establishment may still have considerable power. The builder who supervises the construction and maintenance of the fort and the officers' houses has no official power but, because he can rush or delay construction projects and repairs, even officers would be reluctant to offend him. An artisan who makes weapons for the army would also have some derived power and so would the trader who imports a particularly good wine or exotic fruits and melons or , through much of human history, tea and silk from China.

Each group has some power, because The System is not monolithic. In effect it is the sum of all the smaller systems in the world and we can best describe the way the world is ruled by comparison with the game of 'Earth Ball.' This was a brief fad on college campuses in the 1970's but, probably because it never amounts to much more than a shoving match, it didn't last long. The 'Earth Ball' was a huge leather-covered ball, about six feet in diameter and weighing more than a hundred pounds, which was pushed around a field by two or more teams. If the game is played between two roughly equal teams the ball stays near the middle of the field. If one team tries harder than the other, the ball will move toward one end of the field. Imagine a game of Earth Ball in which a dozen roughly equal teams each try to push the ball toward one of twelve goals. No one team is likely to score a goal, but let's ignore that for now. If there were two goals at each end of the field and four along each side, the ball would tend to stay near the center of the field. But the forces which govern this world are not well balanced. Members of the Establishment may not have specific interests in common but they all favor maintenance of the Establishment and of a world that is kind to the Establishment. Now imagine a game of Earth Ball with twelve teams and twelve goals -- but with ten of the goals clustered in one corner of the field. The ball, obviously, will never get far from that corner.


Kings and emperors wore crowns but their kingdoms and empires were ruled by systems and, starting with the French Revolution in 1789, some kings and aristocrats have been replaced by the system we call 'democracy.'[12]

In a democracy we elect 'citizens' to play the part of rulers but, like the kings and aristocrats of old, our elected representatives are just tools of The System.

That is not to say that elected representatives and other rulers do not have power. They do, but they are still tools of the system. If they have power The System gives it to them and if they do not use their power to serve the needs of The System they will be replaced. If they are not, the system they serve will be replaced by a system managed by people who serve the needs of The System rather than those of humanity.

In democracy the power of The System is more obvious than in a kingdom. A king might argue that he has power in his own right but a president -- the president of the United States, for example -- is just the temporary holder of a position within The System.

In this sense democracy is more honest than monarchy, because we see that power is a function of The System rather than the man.

John Kenneth Galbraith recognized this. He was appointed to manage price controls in the United States during WWII but, as cited earlier, he says it was his office that made the decisions and he just rubber-stamped them.

In a democracy as in a kingdom most of the actual government of the country is carried on by bureaucrats who are supposed to have the welfare of the country at heart but who, like the agents of the occupied village, have other concerns. Personal safety is not a serious problem for the modern civil servant but his career is still important and, like the agent of old, he has his personal wealth to consider. We don't like to think that our politicians and civil servants are corrupt but until the late 1980's Canadian tax laws allowed companies to claim bribes as a legitimate business expense. On Jan 31, 1986 Revenue Canada actually published a circular to advise people how to handle the paperwork.[13] If Revenue Canada saw the need for a circular, we have to assume that it knew about a lot of bribes.

And corruption persists. As I write this the City of Toronto is investigating a multi-million-dollar scandal involving the rental of computers and another involving the municipal electrical utility, the federal goverment is investigating the three hundred million dollar "AdScam" scandal and Saskatchewan is investigating the disappearance of at least a million dollars in welfare funds.[14]

Years ago a small manufacturer of farm equipment told me that he did not deal with the federal government because he "can't afford the bribes."

On another occasion the American-born president of a Canadian 'high-tech' startup told me, with some bitterness, that he had discovered that his company was a fraud. It seems that a Canadian politician had a brother who was an investment banker in New York, and that it had been arranged for the brother to get a $30 million grant to start new businesses, but just a few million had been spent and the businesses were now being wound down. The man who told me this was bitter because he had given up a good job in the States to become president of a company that, he now knew, was never intended to succeed.

When three of the four tires on my car were found to be defective, I wondered why there was no recall. Later, a friend told me that one employee of Transport Canada has very expensive tastes, and that companies that satisfy them don't have to have recalls.

Even if all civil servants were completely honest they must still look to their own welfare. Consider the operation of the hypothetical government Department of Cats and Dogs which manages and regulates welfare, housing, hydrants and so forth for cats and dogs.

The department has three main divisions -- the Bureau of Cats, the Bureau of Dogs and the Administration. These three offices have different interests.

The Bureau of Cats deals with the welfare of cats. It plants trees, releases mice in public parks and proposes laws to ensure that all dogs be chained at all times. The employees have an interest in their own personal welfare, of course; so they also campaign for higher wages, a bigger budget and more employees for the Bureau of Cats.

The Bureau of Dogs wants more hydrants, barriers on trees to prevent cats from climbing them and total freedom for dogs. The employees also have an interest in their own welfare, and they therefore maintain a low-key campaign for a bigger budget for their department, more pay and more employees.

The Administration mediates between the two bureaus. It gives no particular favor to either side and it carefully weighs each argument as it is presented. The only partisan interest of the Administration is the welfare of the department as a whole so of course it favors a bigger budget for each Bureau and for the Administration, higher wages all round and more employees to share the work-load.

Each bureau honestly tries to do its job, just as the whole department cooperates with other departments to provide good government to the country, but their primary efforts balance one another and their secondary efforts all tend in the same general direction. Neither dogs nor cats will benefit much from the Department of Cats and Dogs but the employees of the two bureaus and the Administration have some aims in common, and those aims will be accomplished. The fact that those aims are no help to cats, dogs or the public that pays the bills is of no concern to The System, or to the bureaucrats who manage it.

There is no Department of Dogs and Cats, of course, but all large systems employ bureaucrats who recommend and pass new regulations that demand more and more work by bureaucrats at every level. Many bureaucrats actually believe that the busy work that occupies their time, and that they create for others, is useful. It is largely because they believe this that The System employs them as bureaucrats.

And in fact their work is useful -- to The System. Whatever the official job title every bureaucrat's real job is to help The System grow and, by creating more busy-work, they do it.

More than 40 years ago, when I was working as a newspaper reporter, I discovered the rule that seems to govern many bureaucratic decisions. I call it 'Turnbull's law' and the rule is that, when confronted with a problem and a selection of potential solutions, a civil servant must choose the most expensive solution that will not solve the problem.

The rationale is simple. The more expensive the solution, the more important the man who chooses and administers it. On the other hand if the problem is solved the people who solved it will no longer be needed so it is not desirable to actually solve any problem.

Natural selection gives the bureaucrats who choose more expensive and less-effective programs an advantage, because they gain more power within the system. If a bureaucrat solves a problem cheaply and effectively it will be assumed that the problem was not difficult, and he will get no respect for his accomplishment. If a bureaucrat spends a lot of money and fails to solve the problem, it will be assumed that the problem was very difficult and he will be honored for his efforts.

About thirty years ago a city in British Columbia hired an 'industrial commissioner' to bring new industry to the city. This was at the beginning of the electronics boom and this city -- remote from markets but a wonderful place to live and with crystal-clear mountain air -- would have been an obvious place to produce light weight, high value electronic goods.

But when I interviewed the 'industrial commissioner' he had no idea about what type of industry he should try to attract. In an attempt to draw him out I made some suggestions and, in the end, he agreed that the city would be a wonderful place to build a foundry to cast anchors for the navy.

I had suggested that as a ridiculous example. It should never have been considered because there was no iron in the area and no coal suitable for use in a foundry; there were no trained foundry workers and any anchors cast in that city would have to travel hundreds of miles through mountains to reach salt water. On the other hand a foundry would have polluted the clean air that was the city's most valuable asset.

The 'industrial commissioner' didn't have a clue about the job he was hired to do but he did know how to work the system and, in time, he became one of the most powerful bureaucrats in the city.

The politicians who lead a democracy may be wealthy in their own right but they still have the next election to consider and political debts from the last one to repay. We like to pretend that our senior politicians see the welfare of the nation as their first priority but the nation they see is composed of their friends and other members of the Establishment who have helped them gain and hold power.

In theory the rulers of a democracy are the people who exert their power through the politicians they elect. In fact politicians represent the interests of the systems that pay for their election campaigns, rather than of the voters who elect them. They have to, because it costs tens of millions of dollars to elect a prime minister or a president in the modern world and very few of the people who control that kind of money are idealists. We have to assume that the people and/or systems that put up the money expect, and get, something in return.

In the modern world most governments have evolved into networks of self-serving metasystems, all of them offering some service to the people they govern but all, to a greater of lesser extent, serving their own interests.

Any one politician or civil servant may be conscientious and public spirited but every one must also consider his or her own welfare and the welfare of the department he works for or supervises, the needs of his co-workers and political sponsors, the popular feeling of the time and how his decisions will be perceived by the public.

All these concerns are more pressing and immediate than any abstract 'public welfare' and, further, the effect of any one action on the public welfare will be much harder to judge than its effect on the government, the departments and the individuals concerned.


One of the primary functions of government is to enact laws which are supposed to represent the will of the rulers -- whether they be kings, aristocrats or the people at large. Whatever the source of the laws they can and often will create a metasystem that serves The System rather than the people.

In 1919 The Eighteenth Amendment to the American Constitution prohibited the sale or consumption of alcohol in the United States. Prohibition did not make much difference to the consumption of alcohol but it created huge and wealthy criminal organizations and it helped the relatively innocuous Bureau of Investigation -- up to that time concerned mostly with fraud and anti-trust cases -- to develop into the large, well-armed and powerful Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In modern times the American 'War on Drugs' unites the United States' Drug Enforcement Administration, the Coast Guard, state and local police, court and prison systems and tens of thousands of criminals in a metasystem that depends on a flourishing trade in illegal drugs to keep it prosperous. It is largely due to the War on Drugs that the United States is the world leader in prisons, with 685 people out of every 100,000 of the population held in jail. In Europe, 87 people of every 100,000 are in jail.[15]

If the 'War on Drugs' were ever won tens of thousands of government employees would be redundant. If the police and other agencies were to relax their efforts the price of drugs would fall and the trade would no longer be so profitable. Criminals and police need each other to maintain the trade in drugs at its present level of profitability, and police and other government functions at their present size and funding.

We know that if the police were to relax their efforts the drugs trade would fade because, nearly 30 years ago, the government of the Netherlands virtually destroyed the Dutch drug trade by relaxing laws. Tolerant drug laws bring thousands of drug users to the Netherlands as tourists but, in spite of that, the country now has the lowest usage of hard drugs in the developed world.

If it were not tragic it would be amusing to compare drug usage in the U.S.A., where tens of thousands of policemen and civil servants owe their jobs to the drug trade, with drug usage in the Netherlands where marijuana is tolerated.

In 1997 32.9% of Americans 12 years old and older but only 15.6% of Dutch citizens in the same age group had used cannabis at least once. Nine percent of Americans but only 4.5% of Dutch citizens had used cannabis in the year before the survey. More than 5% of Americans but only 2.5% of Dutch citizens had used cannabis within a month before the survey.

Use of hard drugs is also lower in the Netherlands than in the United States. More than 10% of Americans but just over 2% of Dutch citizens have tried cocaine at least once. Within the month before the survey 0.7% of Americans but only 0.2% of Dutch had used cocaine. More than three times as many Americans as Dutch have used heroin at least once.[16]


In fact the American War on Drugs actually promotes the use of drugs. This is an example of the phenomenon that I call 'Barnum's Law,' in honor of Phineas Taylor Barnum whose Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus was billed as "the greatest show on earth."

Barnum was one of the great salesmen of history, and he was famous for the way he cooperated with the press. Most businessmen will cooperate on a story that reflects credit on them but Barnum would help reporters on any story, good or bad. When someone asked why he would help reporters with a story that made him look bad he stated his principle -- which I consider one of the great laws of salesmanship -- "There is no such thing as bad publicity."

Barnum knew that whatever the story, and whatever the public reaction to it, people would soon forget the story but they would remember the name.

In 1866 the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals received a complaint that snakes in Barnum's New York museum were fed live rabbits.

ASPCA president Henry Bergh took up the complaint with letters to Barnum, and those letters somehow found their way into the New York World newspaper. As the controversy developed other newspapers in the United States and even in England printed both Bergh's letters and Barnum's replies, and the public correspondence continued from December of 1866 to June of 1867.

Bergh's florid descriptions of the terror of the rabbits and the hypnotic gaze of the snakes were overdrawn, to say the least, but they were wonderful advertising and visitors flocked to the museum.

A friend of mine saw Barnum's Law in action when she worked for a driving school in Hamilton, Ontario. One of the school's instructors got drunk and drove one of the school's cars off Hamilton Mountain. The local press named the school in their stories, and business dropped for a couple of weeks.

Then it came back, and it boomed for a couple of months.

When an instructor gets drunk and wrecks a car it's not good publicity for a driving school and while people remembered the accident they stayed away from the school. But after they forgot the accident they still remembered the name and, when they looked for a driving school, one name was more familiar than others.

Real estate developer Donald Trump discovered Barnum's Law for himself, when he tore down New York's old Tiffany Building to build the Trump Tower. He had some famous art deco sculptures destroyed and, next day, the New York Times ran a front-page picture of the destruction. For several days the media and public figures criticized Trump for his decision.

"Even though the publicity was almost entirely negative," he wrote in The Art of the Deal, "there was a great deal of it, and that drew a tremendous amount of attention to Trump Tower. Almost immediately we saw an upsurge in the sales of apartments."

He concluded that "good publicity is preferable to bad but, from a bottom-line perspective, bad publicity is better than no publicity at all."

Tens of millions of Americans prove Barnum's Law every day when they use dangerous and illegal drugs that are, in effect, advertised by the government's 'war on drugs.' Drug users believe the message about the danger of drugs about as much as any of us believe anything government tells us, but the message that drugs are available and desirable gets through loud and clear.

The American government's propaganda against drug use is, for practical purposes, an advertising campaign promoting the use of illegal drugs. It's hard to imagine that the people who manage the campaign don't know that but, as the English philosopher Herbert Spencer observed, when a government program does not work; the usual reaction is to enlarge it.[17]


The War on Drugs was intended to protect Americans from the horrors of drug use but instead it created a huge, powerful and oppressive metasystem that works for its own benefit and to the detriment of the people it pretends to protect. The metasystem of the anti-drug crusade also includes the tobacco companies, brewers of beer and distillers -- all of which produce products that compete with marijuana. Even cotton farmers are part of the metasystem that bans the legal farming of hemp, which could compete with cotton as a fiber. No cotton farmer would admit that his opposition to the use of marijuana was based on his fear of competition from hemp, but any businessman who could not see a danger so obvious would not stay in business very long.[18]

Other beneficiaries of the War on Drugs include public and private corporations that supply police and prison equipment, others that build and operate prisons and even third world armies that get free equipment from the United States in return for allowing and abetting American raids on farmers in their territories.

The War on Drugs was also used to justify the infamous RICO laws -- the acronym stands for racketeer influenced corrupt organization -- which allow some American police to seize the property of anyone they think may be involved in crime. They don't have to prove the connection with crime, or even that a crime has been committed. An article by writer James Bovard in the October 1995 issue of Playboy magazine says U. S. federal agents had seized about $4 billion worth of private assets by the time the article was written. More than 80% of the people whose assets were seized were never charged with a crime.[19]

Often, forfeitures are based on the word of confidential informants, many of whom are ex-convicts or people avoiding conviction by cooperating with police. Confidential informants are given as much as 25 percent (up to $250,000) of the value of any property that agents seize as a result of their leads. A worse set of incentives would be hard to imagine. A paid informant in Adair County, Missouri told police that Sheri and Matthew Farrell were processing "marijuana for sale" on their 60-acre farm, and the government seized the property. The Informant later refused to testify in court -- first claiming illness, then loss of memory. Federal prosecutors dropped the charges against the Farrells, who got their land back only after agreeing not to sue the government for damages.

Bovard says that many police agencies keep all or most of what they seize. They use the money to buy exercise equipment, expensive cars, gold watches and so forth. In one case proceeds from seizures were used to pay the settlement in a sexual harassment suit and in another to give a county sheriff a retroactive $48,000 raise just before he left office.

He says U.S. Customs officials confiscated the $250,000 yacht of Willem Eickholt, a Dutchman living in Washington State. His crime? He had sailed to Cuba and given away 15 cartons of dried milk and other care packages to a Cuban organization that feeds the hungry. Customs officials threatened to charge Eickholt with violating the Trading With the Enemy Act.

He says police in Ottsville, Pennsylvania, seized the $250,000 home of Richard and Bonnie Nightingale after officers found marijuana plants inside. The Nightingales and their three children were evicted. Deputy District Attorney Gary Gambardella observed: "People say that selling drugs is a victimless crime, but the children are the real losers here."

He says police in Utah seized the 160-acre ranch of Bradshaw Bowman after police found a handful of marijuana plants growing on his property, far from his house. Eighty-year old Bowman told The Pittsburgh Press: "I've had this property for almost 20 years, and it's absolute heaven. My wife is buried here. I didn't even know the stuff was growing there."

Writer John Dillin describes one disturbing case in the October 1, 1993 edition of The Christian Science Monitor.

In the early morning of Oct. 2, 1992 thirty lawmen including Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputies, Los Angeles City Police and officers from the U. S. Forest Service, the National Park Service and the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement invaded a hobby ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains near Malibu. The ranch is in Ventura County but the Ventura County sheriff's office was not included in, or informed of, the raid.

Multimillionaire owner Donald Scott and his wife Frances Plante were asleep when deputies broke his door open with a battering ram and entered with guns drawn. Scott, who had gone to bed drunk at about 2am, woke up, grabbed a pistol and ran into the living room. Two deputies shot and killed him.

It turned out that Scott was "under suspicion" because his wife had paid for her shopping with $100 bills. A Los Angeles narcotics officer decided that Scott must be in the marijuana business, and he later claimed that "an informant" told him there were three or four thousand marijuana plants on the property.

But the police did not raid immediately. In September of 1992 a special agent from the Drug Enforcement Administration flew over the ranch to look for marijuana plants. He saw some plants that he thought looked suspicious, and suggested a ground search.

On Sept 24 and 25 a US Border Patrol tactical squad entered the property (illegally) but failed to find anything. They gave up their first attempt because the ground was too rough for them, and their second because Scott's dogs heard them and barked.

On Sept 27 a sergeant of the LA County Sheriff's department visited the ranch on the pretext of buying a puppy. He was given a tour of the ranch, and found Scott to be friendly and cooperative.

On Oct. 1 a judge gave Deputy Gary Spencer a search warrant. Later the Ventura District Attorney said the affidavit on which the search warrant was based contains "misstatements" and serious omissions. Because of them, he said, the warrant was invalid. The DA's report also notes that officers were not able to find any "stems, seeds, ropes, or any other remnants of marijuana cultivation." Investigation on the ground found that the plants that the DEA's agent had seen from the air were ivy.

And it seems that there may have been another reason for the raid. Scott's property adjoined a national park and apparently the U.S. Parks Service wanted it. It has been suggested that the real reason for the raid was that the Los Angeles Sheriff hoped to seize the ranch and sell it to the Parks Service. That might explain why Parks Service officers -- who had no legitimate reason for being there -- went along on the raid.[20]

Because of the Scott case and others, the Monitor article says, the California Legislature refused to renew the state's civil asset forfeiture law.

Civil asset forfeiture is a polite term for what soldiers in the occupied village might have called 'looting,' which they considered to be their right as conquerors. Even if policemen are native to the towns they patrol they are still the cultural heirs of the soldiers that occupied the village and many of them see themselves, like the soldiers of old, as distinctly different from the general citizens. In most cases, for example, a policeman from New York City would have more empathy for a policeman from Los Angeles than he would for a non-policeman from his own city.


The War on Terror provides a recent example of how a metasystem can develop. A very real event -- in this case the attack of 9/11 -- spurred an apparently reasonable response, in this case the establishment of the new "Office of Homeland Security" and a general tightening of security procedures.

Because the country was in a state of panic the government had to act immediately. The hijacking of the planes showed that airport security measures then in place were not effective but rather than change the procedure, the government just tightened existing procedures. As the English philosopher Herbert Spencer observed, more than 120 years ago, when a government program does not work; the usual reaction is to intensify it.[21]

In the next few weeks news reporters around North America proved that they could still smuggle knives and other weapons aboard planes.[22] This suggests that the new regulations would probably not stop a serious hijack attempt, but they do help the systems and metasystems of 'security' to grow and they give the systems and their servants power over millions of ordinary citizens.

In fact there were some serious lessons to be learned from the attack of 9/11, but they were not lessons that many people were willing to learn. The most obvious one is that, with or without terrorism, heavy air traffic in and around big cities is dangerous.

The attacks of 9/11 were deliberate, but planes can also crash by accident. In 1945 a US Army B25 bomber crashed into the Empire State Building but the B25 was a small plane by modern standards and the Empire State Building is built of concrete. The collapse of the World Trade Center showed what can happen when a modern airliner hits a modern building.

Apologists tell us that modern radar and air traffic control makes such an accident impossible, but on July 25, 2000, an Air France Concord crashed into a hotel shortly after take-off from Charles de Gaulle airport near Paris. Accidents can happen, and common sense and the law of averages say they probably will.

This does not mean that we have to stop flying planes. We need them for very long and for trans-oceanic trips but a considerable percentage of all the air traffic in the world is within the Boswash corridor -- from Boston to Washington -- that could be served better and safer by high-speed trains.

And maybe it will be, some day, but the metasystem of the airline industry has close ties to the metasystem of government and, in the days after 9/11, the metasystem of government devoted considerable efforts to helping the metasystem of the airline industry recover.

And it began the War on Terror, which created a metasystem in which government officials and terrorists both stand to gain power and prestige with every act of terrorism that succeeds.

The multi-billion-dollar campaign has abrogated some freedoms that Americans used to take for granted, created new and powerful bureaucracies, justified two wars of aggression, put the United States in violation of the Geneva Convention that used to 'govern' the conduct of wars and motivated a nuclear stand-off with North Korea. The effects on terror are hard to assess but common sense, and the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, (also known as the 9-11 commission) suggest that because the War on Terror has provided new motivation for terrorists it will probably spur a significant long-term increase in terrorism.

That's not what the War on Terror was supposed to do, of course, but that is the result that serves The System best.


The War on Drugs and the War on Terror are part of the criminal justice system, but metasystems can also develop within the system of civil law. One, example is the metasystem based on silicone breast implants.

About one percent of the Dow Corning company's total business was the production of about 750,000 jelly-like breast implants for women who had lost a breast to disease or who just wanted to look better.

But in January of 1992 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration imposed a moratorium on the use of the implants. Lawyers across the country smelled blood and some advertised in local newspapers to find women who had implants and who might be persuaded to file claims against Dow Corning.

The company was not worried because it carried more than $250 million insurance, but hundreds of thousands of women filed claims that their silicone breast implants caused illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis and auto-immune disease.

In fact studies by the Mayo Clinic and other reliable medical facilities found that women with breast implants have the same incidence of diseases as women without implants but, with 750,000 implants in use, a lot of women with implants also have diseases. Lawyers encouraged any woman with an implant and a disease to blame the disease on the implant.

And the truth is no defense against predatory lawyers. It would have been so expensive to fight the cases that Dow Corning offered a 'global' settlement of $105,000 to $1.4 million to each claimant, depending on her health and age.

That would have cost the company more than $4 billion but it would have limited the lawyers' take and many of them urged women to continue their lawsuits. One Houston lawyer pursued more than 1,000 settlements outside the global settlement.

In May of 1995, after a federal judge said the $4.2 billion that Dow Corning had committed to settle the claims would not be enough, the company filed for voluntary bankruptcy.[23]

Breast implants were a tiny part of Dow Corning's business and the company offered them only as a public service. Nobody ever proved that any implants harmed anyone but a business worth billions of dollars was bankrupted.

The metasystem that did the damage included everyone who had breast implants and some form of disease, everyone who had breast implants and could fake some form of disease, the lawyers who launched suits and their employees, Dow Corning's lawyers and their employees, judges who heard the suits and all court employees, the news media who reported the suits and countless others. If a lawyer had to rent extra office space to handle the new business, his landlord became part of the metasystem.

Some of these cases were probably fraudulent but even where the metasystem is sustained by fraud most of its members may be honest. When a fraudulent claim is tried in court the stenographer who records the trial is not part of the fraud but, because it creates well-paid work, he or she still benefits from it.

In 1997 some lawyers attacked the huge Dow Chemical Corporation, on the grounds that it owned part of Dow Corning.[24] It's hard to imagine that they could do serious harm to Dow Chemical but it was hard to imagine that they could hurt Dow Corning. All we know for sure is that they can do millions or billions of dollars damage to the corporation, and that they will probably make millions for themselves.

The metasystem of civil law supports a lot of people, some of them very well. One reporter's survey found that several American lawyers make more than $10 million a year and that the best-paid lawyer in the U.S. received more than $90 million in fees in 1996.[25]

But victims of the metasystem pay the price and, one way or another, we are all victims. Lawsuits for 'slip and fall' accidents cost the city of New York about $200 million a year and, TV reporter John Stossel said in his ABC News Special program on lawyers, the cost of lawsuits and insurance adds $100 to the price of the average football helmet, $500 to the price of a car and about $3,000 to the price of heart pacemaker.

The law is a metasystem in its own right and a vital component of The System. We like to think that it serves us and I do not suggest that we could live without it in the modern world, but the fact is that it serves its own servants, and The System, better than it serves the people it pretends to protect.


Like the law, religion is also a social-control mechanism. It gives people a common focus beyond themselves and their families and most successful religions have driven or led worshipers to build temples, pyramids and other monumental structures.

Many religions also promise soldiers a pleasant after-life if they die in the service of kings or priests and they help to control slaves by offering a posthumous reward for obedience to the commands of the church and their owners while they live.

A useful religion also gives power and prestige to its priests, justification and a control mechanism to kings and aristocrats and, most important, it ties everyone into a system.

Some religions have been 'revealed' but some were created for the benefit of The System. One section of Plato's Republic considers the characteristics of the god that must be worshipped in the ideal city state. There is no suggestion that this god might actually exist, only that the people of The Republic must worship it and that it must be considered a serious crime to "misrepresent the gods."[26]

We don't know where the concept of a god came from but we might guess that it dates back to the days when men first began to observe the relationship between cause and effect. They could see this relationship in things they could control and they may have assumed that it must also exist in things they could not control. If they could not find the cause of something in the natural world, they may have assumed that it must exist in a supernatural world.[27]

Whatever the reason, it is generally assumed that every human culture in history has believed in some kind of supernatural gods or spirits or demons and that most had priests or shamans of some sort. Some biologists argue that belief in a higher power may have a biological explanation.[28]

We don't know how the first holy men were chosen but we know that among hunters and gatherers the person who can do a job best is usually expected to take the lead. It's hard to tell who is best at dealing with the supernatural but if one person seems to have more skill or luck at predicting the weather or some other aspect of the future, he or she might be chosen. If no one person seems to be better than others, we can assume that the person who wanted the position probably got it.

At first the job of holy man was probably no prize. In a mesolithic hunting and gathering culture where most of the 'work' was what we would call recreation and where there is no way to accumulate wealth, the job of shaman can pay only in prestige. The physical benefits, in fact, may be negative.

A shaman may take part in a hunt by painting pictures of the animal to be hunted or by performing some other ritual to ensure success. Among most hunters and gatherers any member of the camp can claim a share of the kill, whether he or she took part in the hunt or not, but some shamans do not eat animals found by their magic. A shaman who helps hunters might take no share of their kill but he would be fed somehow and he would earn respect and honor -- which are the treasures of a hunting and gathering culture.

Early religions were probably simple and un-structured but, like everything else, they evolved. Priests and religious scholars have tracked the development of different types of belief but here we are concerned only with the development of religion as part of The System.

A shaman among hunters and gatherers has prestige but a priest in a village can be wealthy. The first shamans who settled in villages may not have understood the potential of their position and most of them probably did not exploit it but, by accident or design, some did. Once the potential was demonstrated shamans who wanted wealth or power, or both, might try to establish themselves in villages.

Some of the oldest physical evidence of organized religion comes from the site called Catal Huyuk in southern Turkey. Here the remains of a Neolithic village of mud-brick houses, occupied about 6000 BC, include shrines with huge figures of goddesses who seem to be giving birth. Leopards and the heads of bulls and rams are modeled in relief on some walls and others contain frescoes showing elaborate scenes such as the hunting of deer and aurochs and vultures devouring headless human corpses.

Stone and terra-cotta statuettes found in shrines represent a female figure sometimes accompanied by leopards and, from the earlier levels of excavation, a bearded man seated on a bull and a younger man riding a leopard.[29]

These shrines and idols didn't help the people of the village and they didn't even help the priests directly but, as visible reminders that the gods must be respected, they helped the religion. By this stage religion may already have been part of a system but the shrines in the village were just a beginning.

As any religion becomes established the priests who serve it must look out for the interests of the gods and the interests of the gods demand a wealthy and powerful church. Whatever their personal tastes, the priests of a wealthy and powerful church will themselves be wealthy and powerful.

Christianity and other religions honor prophets who chose to live in poverty but most of the religions of the world are fabulously wealthy and few priests of any faith live in real poverty.

As religions gained power priests initiated and managed many of the most expensive construction projects of history -- including three of the 'seven wonders' of the ancient world and others that would have enlarged the list if the scholars who compiled it had known about them.

The people of Egypt did not need pyramids but the religion needed physical symbols of the power and importance of the priests, the kings and the gods.

The people of Olympia did not need a statue of Zeus but the one they built was another of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The people of Ephesis did not need a Temple of Artemis but that was yet another of the seven wonders.

In the Americas the great Pyramid of the Sun at Mexico, the temple pyramids of the Maya, the huge mounds of Cahokia in the United States and the temple of Sacsahuaman in Peru were all built to serve religions. In Cambodia the ancient temples of Angkor-Wat are still magnificent.

Between 1050 and 1350 AD the people of France built 80 cathedrals, 500 large churches and tens of thousands of parish churches. Encyclopedia Britannica says the cathedrals and churches of France required more quarried stone than all the palaces, temples and pyramids of ancient Egypt.[30]

Temples are of no use to people and the buildings are of little use to The System but their construction is, because to build a big temple people must work in huge gangs under central control for a project that is of no direct benefit to themselves. This is a benefit to The System because religions and construction gangs are both systems and, as temples are built, the individual systems are strengthened and The System itself gains power.

Archaeologists used to think the pyramids were built by slaves but many now believe they were built by the 'voluntary' labor of 'free' citizens. That may be, but if 'free' citizens 'volunteer' that much labor, they are obviously dominated by the priests and kings who demand it.

Priests may have developed reading, writing and mathematics, and they probably developed astronomy. All these are useful to humanity but they are even more useful to The System because they all make central control more practical. Priests in some areas produced calendars to tell farmers when to plant their crops and in others they supervised and managed irrigation systems. Again, these are of some use to humanity but more use to The System.

At this point we have to remember that we are talking about systems, not about people. Many priests have been devoted to the service of their gods and of mankind and some have been responsible for great accomplishments.

But even priests who serve mankind must also serve the system of the religion, and no system cares much about the welfare of either gods or men.

Historians tell us that priests in Carthage sacrificed thousands of babies to Baal Hammon.[31] The Aztecs sacrificed thousands of prisoners their gods and the Maya weighted some of their own daughters with gold and threw them into sacred wells. The Inca drugged some of their children and left them to freeze to death on mountain-tops.

Among Christians the Spanish Inquisition tortured and killed people for the good of their souls and because the church could claim half the victims' wealth. Papal armies killed thousands of Catholics and heretics alike in the Albigensian Crusade of the 13th Century.[32] Many crusaders slaughtered Christians, Jews and Moslems indiscriminately and Christians in Europe and America tortured and burned thousands of women who were accused of witchcraft.

Religion has also sparked and justified many wars of conquest. When the Hebrews conquered the land of Canaan they slaughtered all the men and kept the women and children as slaves.[33] When Muslims took Sind (now part of Pakistan) they did the same.[34] Spain's conquest of South and Central America was driven by greed, but it was justified by the need to bring native Americans to Christ.

At this point fundamentalist Christian and Muslim sects still play major roles in world affairs, but much of religion's traditional role in bending people to The System has been taken over by the metasystems of education and propaganda.

Forward to Education

back to Andy Turnbull's web page