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The Rationing Society

There are two types of societies, production societies and rationing societies. The production society is concerned with taking more territory, exploiting that territory to the best of its ability and then discovering new techniques for producing even more. The rationing society is concerned with consolidating control over all existing resources and rationing them out to the people.

The production society values innovation because it is the only means of sustaining its forward momentum. If the production society ceases to be innovative, it will collapse and default to a rationing society. The rationing society however is threatened by innovation because innovation threatens its control over production.

Socialist or capitalist monopolies lead to rationing societies where production is restrained and innovation is discouraged. The difference between the two is that a capitalist monopoly can be overcome. A socialist monopoly however is insurmountable because it carries with it the full weight of the authorities and the ideology that is inculcated into every man, woman and child in the country.

We have become a rationing society. Our industries and our people are literally starving in the midst of plenty. Farmers are kept from farming, factories are kept from producing and businessmen are kept from creating new companies and jobs. This is done in the name of a variety of moral arguments, ranging from caring for the less fortunate to saving the planet. But rhetoric is only the lubricant of power. The real goal of power is always power. Consolidating production allows for total control through the moral argument of rationing, whether through resource redistribution or cap and trade.

The politicians of a rationing society may blather on endlessly about increasing production, but it's so much noise, whether it's a Soviet Five Year Plan or an Obama State of the Union Address. When they talk about innovation and production, what they mean is the planned production and innovation that they have decided should happen on their schedule. And that never works.

You can ration production, but that's just another word for poverty. You can't ration innovation, which is why the aggressive attempts to put low mileage cars on the road have failed. As the Soviet Union discovered, you can have rationing or innovation, but you can't have both at the same time. The total control exerted by a monolithic entity, whether governmental or commercial, does not mix well with innovation.

The rationing society is a poverty generator because not only does it discourage growth, its rationing mechanisms impoverish existing production with massive overhead. The process of rationing existing production requires a bureaucracy for planning, collecting and distributing that production that begins at a ratio of the production and then increases without regard to the limitations of that production.

Paradoxically the rationing infrastructure increases in direct proportion to the falloff of production as lower production requires even greater rationing. This is what we are seeing now in the United States, in a weak economy, there is greater justification for the expansion of rationing mechanisms. And the worse the economy becomes, the bigger government will become to "compensate" for the problems of the economy.

In a production society, the role of government is to expand the territories of exploitation and to protect those territories. In a rationing society, the role of government is to control the available quantities of production with a view to distributing them fairly. Naturally, the rationers, as always, get the best rations. In a production society, government is a means of protecting everyone's ability to produce. In a rationing society, government prevents the bigger from grabbing the rations of the smaller and protects everyone from grabbing all the rations at once and starving to death.

The sort of society we have is fit for passengers adrift at sea on a lifeboat parceling out their last crackers. It is an emergency society for the lost and the starving. And perversely we are starving amidst plenty.

The rationing society discourages people from farming and encourages them to peer in each other's mouths to see who is eating more than his fair share. In the rationing society everyone is certain that they are not getting their fair share and eager to sign on to initiatives to get their group's fair share. In a rationing society everyone is an informer because everyone's livelihood depends on informing on others.

In a production society, people compete for production. In a rationing society, people compete for entitlements. Everyone is always bitter and suspicious in a rationing society, and when they aren't, they're resigned and phlegmatic. They either accept that life is unfair or they rave against it. They are either jealous or give up on material things entirely making their society into a comprehensive failure.

I met a man once who told me that his greatest dream was to be feasting at a full table while outside hungry people pass by and look longingly through the window. This is the type of mindset that a rationing society produces. Its denizens instinctively absorb the idea that resources are finite and their competitiveness takes place at a zero sum level that is incomprehensible in any open society.

In a rationing society, people are certain that if another has something, then he came by it unfairly. And every group has an exaggerated sense of the material prosperity of other groups. This is not a bug, it is a feature. The rationing society deliberately cultivates a sense of unfairness to make it clear that individual efforts are meaningless and the only thing that matters is one's connections to the rationers and the degree of mutual support from the group for the rationers and the rationers for the group.

Individual initiative is discouraged by a web of bureaucracy to make it difficult for individuals to act outside the plan. In a monopolistic system, rules and permits make it difficult for the individual to move forward. The permit regime also promotes corruption which makes honest enterprise almost impossible. Through these means the system restrains the micro, which is ordinarily too small to be properly controlled, while focusing on the macro.

The rationing of present day America, which has the resources, the wealth and the techniques to produce, is being managed in political terms. The politicians still talk in terms of innovation and production, even while enacting policies meant to discourage both. The dominant political class has been dedicated to one form of rationing or another throughout the 20th Century. The only difference between them is the degree of radicalism and their understanding that the rationing is a transition, rather than a safety net or an emergency measure.

When you listen to the larger message of the left, it is one of finity. We have a finite amount of planetary resources and domestic wealth. This finity represents a global and national crisis that has to be tackled with rationing mechanisms. We are all on a lifeboat and some of us are gobbling up more than their fair share of rations. Unless the rationers step forward, seize everyone's rations and pass out limited rations, then we are all doomed.

The essential 21st Century conflict is between the rationers and the producers. This is not a class conflict, that is the fallacy that the left has fallen into for over a century. It is a conflict between a system of bureaucratic collectivism and a society of individuals. It is not a conflict between the rich and the poor, the majority of the rationers are either rich or close enough to it. Their charges may be poor, but the representatives of their victim groups invariably become rich. The rationer camp is funded by some of the wealthiest men and companies in America who agree with its premise that we need to ration everything from children to jobs to food to carbon emissions.

This is a fundamental philosophical conflict between those who believe in a free society and those who believe in a managed society. It is not simply a conflict between capitalism and socialism, many of the capitalists are on the side of the rationers because they agree with them or profit from the rationing. It is a conflict that predates the American Revolution, a conflict that became inevitable with the rise of the supercity and the closing of the frontier.

This is a struggle between those who believe that people should be managed and those who believe that people should manage themselves. Our institutions now depend on a class of managers who fill the ranks of the institutions of the public and private sector, who produce little, but whose goal is to make production completely predictable. And we are, in short, being managed to death.

Scientific management, rather than predicting human variables, has done its best to make everything predictable, and a perfectly predictable thing is static. It has no ability to move forward. The drive to make the behavior of people predictable has led to the institutionalism of every aspect of life. And that has led to rationing programs that depend on predictability, and when that predictability fails,respond with greater efforts at control.

A production society defines achievement in terms of production. A rationing society defines it in terms of control. In a rationing society, it is possible to starve amidst plenty because the rationers would rather see people starve, than lose control over them.


  1. Brilliant socioeconomic analysis! As someone who comes from a rationing society, I can vouch for Mr. Greenfield's description of its collective mindset. How sad that so many Americans now _want_ to abandon the production society that has done so well by so many over its history, in order to gain the--illusory--sense of security offered by the machinators of the rationing society.

    1. I agree. I also come from a similar background and have seen first hand the effects of a rationing society. What is ironic is that children of such societies are taught to hate capitalists and the free market system, while some of those capitalists are in collusion with the government, doing the very rationing that defines the society. This is perhaps intentional to keep the population "asleep".

  2. Um..Wow..great piece Daniel. I wish this could be published on the front of every newspaper around the US. This would knock ppl back to their senses and make them suddenly realize what's happening. Not all of course, but many of the sheeple who have just never had anyone effectively communicate the difference. I always share your articles & tell friends that reading your stuff is like candy for my brain. Brilliant. Thank you

  3. I feel that I have read this post before.

    1. this basic difference in the two kinds of societies needs to be preached and taught everywhere.

  4. This is odd, you posted this before in 2012, titled as starving amid plenty. Why are you recycling your old posts?

    1. Maybe you can contribute some posts?

  5. The Far Eastern societies only recently released of being largely rationing societies are finding themselves transforming into production societies even though for an important part dependent on former production societies transforming into rationing societies. The world shall stay in swing from one extreme to the other, we in the west where the lucky ones for a few hundred years and now it's the East's term.

  6. God this is a good post. "Behavioral goals" who would have thought of that phrase. That's it.

  7. Anonymous21/9/14

    America didn't become a rationing society overnight. There was always a big push for the Middle Class to go to college. That was so there would be a large group going into the "helping' professions. It was always acknowledged that only a few could be engineers and physicians. It takes talent for that and not everyone is emotionally suited for it. Besides without a productive base those professions are meaningless.

    What was never mentioned was that the real Middle Class was being shrunk. You couldn't ask the question what about me? That was considered wrong. You had college. You had papers to write and you were spoiled. Ask any leftist and a middle class white kid was spoiled. Now every minority in college gets to fight against microaggressions and ask what is in it for them. They don't ask how to be part of a producing America because they have decided they get the rationing in their favor. It is an amazingly bad system and we have the teacher's unions to thank for its implementation. I doubt the teachers actually thought of it.

  8. Phil McKann21/9/14

    Your analysis is always excellent, but this post outshines any in my recent memory. This is really good thought Dan.

  9. Anonymous21/9/14

    "Life's a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death."
    Auntie Mame

    Regardless of the collective mindset in most societies, there are doers and users, neither group is ever really satisfied.
    Fairness in services like medical care, will be doled out by those who don't give a fig about 'care' or 'fair', until they need it themselves.
    The more pertinent discussion might be about how whatever is left of the middle class can save themselves.


  10. Gylippus21/9/14

    As always Daniel, a superb summation of our current predicament. For my own part, it was only in 2004 that I really became aware of the coordinated messaging between the Democratic Party and the mainstream media. I realized an effort to control the population was underway and started digging into the matter. It is difficult for one with only a limited understanding of politics and economics to tease fact from theory. Yet I have arrived at a similar conclusion, the large financial interests have essentially bought out the two party apparatuses, the key political institutions, countless politicians the media, academia, the bureaucracy and have even subverted many core cultural institutions in order to impose a kind of soft-totalitarian control on the population.

    They appear to have recruited a range of “social engineers” of various stripes who use our computer networks and usage metrics to monitor us, and increasing regulation to fence us in. They seem to be motivated by a range of impulses ranging from the simple lust for privilege and power, to darker impulses like eugenics, de-industrialization, population control and even genocide. Furthermore, their scheme may not be totally monolithic, it does appear to be broad-based, highly coordinated, systematic and to extend beyond US borders, including in all likelyhood, members of the European power elite and cliques within the U.N.

    My question to you is have you done a specific analysis of their decision making structure? Do you know who the key players are and how they coordinate and implement their plans? |Would it be possible to develop an organization flowchart or are they too diffused and uncoordinated? Is it really just a bunch of corporatists piling on to an opportunity that was already in place due to leftist activism of the last 50 years, or is there something more tangible and deliberate to all of this? For me this remains the key and elusive question and maybe you can shed some light or point me in the right direction?

  11. Anonymous21/9/14

    Excellent synthesis. Good posts from the past deserve a second reading.

    Andy Texan

  12. Alphamail21/9/14

    To Ex-Dissident:

    You might want to 'ration' your criticism.

    In 2012 I hadn't read Mr. Greenfield so I wasn't privy to his insightful work. I'm sure this holds true for an ever increasing number of readers, and will continue to be true as Daniel's readership and relevance grow.

    Also, while this article was written with acumen and foresight it can nonetheless be proffered that it is even more relevant two years later due to the exponential "change" our Rationer in Chief has incurred on America.

    In short, the truth always bears repeating.

  13. "A socialist monopoly however is insurmountable because it carries with it the full weight of the authorities and the ideology that is inculcated into every man, woman and child in the country." In a capitalist society, force is banned from human relationships, including trade. This is why monopolies in a capitalist society can be overcome. Innovators have a chance to rise and prosper. In a socialist, rationing society, force is not banned and is the primary arbiter and determining factor. Innovators are discouraged by the threat of force or directly by force. The force can take the form of literal policing with clubs and guns, or by punishing taxes and by draconian regulations.

  14. @Gylippus
    There is an excellent flowchart and video available at http://agendadocumentary.com
    I highly recommend getting a copy.

  15. Among the commodities being rationed is the most basic of all.... brains. Look at the current products of our educational system and ask what has happened to our national I.Q.? Was this decrease in mental ability the result of evolution or was it planned?

  16. A rationing society often tries to give the rationers and their pals more than their share of the goodies, while cheating the more productive members.

  17. Anonymous22/9/14

    Your clarity is inpecable, this essay should be required reading for every economics class. Things never change with the left, repackaging is all they are capable of.

  18. Not criticism. Just a question. That essay was very provocative the first time I read it and for that reason, I remembered it.

  19. Anonymous30/9/14

    Well-written and well-thought, as always. If I may add my two cent: Scarcity of resources is fact of life, and most economic models, logistical systems, project management methodologies and resource allocation algorithms are based on it. The pertinent question is: How will scarce resources be rationed? If they are not rationed by the capitalistic mechanism of price (which is a way to assess how much a certain person values a certain good) then they have to be rationed by time, that is, everyone has to wait in line to consume the good, both the people who value the good highly, and those who do not value it very much. Regardless, history has shown that socialism and communism have failed miserably. Today's capitalism in Western nations has been tempered by a century of worker rights activism, and incorporates a considerable amount of welfare benefits, especially for privileged groups (e.g., affirmative action for African-Americans).

  20. Anonymous4/2/15

    Every civilization on the planet throughout known history has suffered from what I call a process of "Socio-Economic Entropy". Systems of government are self-perpetuating and will grow until their feed lines fail and the entire system collapses. Because such systems have cleverly learned to control the thoughts of the offspring (public indoctrination), the juggernaut of this process cannot be stopped or slowed by much. It will continue until the source of its power is depleted. From the ashes, if there are survivors, will rise another primitive society that will gradually industrialize. Then the same hue and cry about 'fairness' will rear its ugly head somewhere. It's a vicious cycle.


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