...those things––whether they be material commodities or forms of knowledge and understanding––that have been produced by the time-binding energies of humanity, and according to which nearly all the wealth of the world at any given time is the accumulated fruit of the toil of past generations—the living work of the dead. (1)Economically, money represented but didn’t constitute wealth. Korzybski warned “against confusing the ‘making’ of money by hook or crook, by trick or trade, with the creating of wealth, by the product of labor.”(2)
Clearly, for Korzybski, knowledge constituted the basis of wealth. Later on in the 1930s, Austrian economist Freidrich Hayek—following in the free market tradition of Adam Smith—began to explore in depth the role of knowledge in human social-economic life. However, there is little visible indication that Hayek or his colleagues ever had any awareness of Korzybski’s earlier formulation of time-binding. Korzybski didn’t pursue any connection with Hayek’s work. Indeed, in 1920, Korzybski still seemed to tilt somewhat strongly toward socialistic views and denounced Adam Smith as an apostle of selfishness and greed (his animus against Smith got somewhat toned down in the journey from manuscript to published book.) After writing Manhood, Korzybski interests shifted from the political-economic applications of time-binding and he never made any major study of economics.
From his time-binding view of wealth, Korzybski criticized both capitalists and socialists in the pages of the book:
There are capitalists and capitalists; there are socialists and socialists. Among the capitalists there are those who want wealth––mainly the fruit of dead men’s toil—for themselves. Among the socialists there are those—the orthodox socialists—who seek to disperse it. The former do not perceive that the product of the labor of the dead is itself dead if not quickened by the energies of living men. The orthodox socialists do not perceive the tremendous benefits that accrue to mankind from the accumulation of wealth, if rightly used. (3)He suggested that “ ‘capitalistic’ lust to keep for SELF and‘proletarian’ lust to get for SELF are both of them space-binding lust––animal lust––beneath the level of time-binding life.” (4)
Korzybski proposed that an alternative political-economic approach must result from a time-binding perspective. He did not elaborate its details, but at its base it would involve a political-economic order, neither ‘socialist’ nor ‘capitalist’ as many people understand those terms, but focused on cooperation which would benefit all humans.
In his related political-economic analysis of the causes of the First World War, Alfred placed major, but not sole, responsibility on Germany. He noted the Germans’ first rate ability to maintain group cohesion and apply their time-binding energies, i.e., scientific/technical prowess, in concerted mass effort toward narrow national aims. The Allies had barely won the war with great difficulty. Apropos German and other forms of nationalism, to the extent that members of different nations could not extend their views beyond their narrow group interests, further conflicts seemed inevitable.
(1). Manhood of Humanity (1921), p. 115.
(3). Ibid, pp. 132-133.
(4). Ibid., p. 198.