by Robert Anton Wilson
from The Realist, No. 41, July 1963
The February 1963 issue of Playboy magazine presents, in between the improbable glans mammalia of its usual nubile nymphs, an even more improbable biological spectacle: the brain of Hugh Hefner. While not as highly developed as the balustrades of his bovine playmates, Mr. Hefner’s brain, it turns out, is equally noteworthy as a product of 20th Century America’s determination to idolize the pneumatic.
It is really whimsical to see what money can do in this country. The elder Hearst was able to inflict upon the public his opinion that his mistress was an actress, in spite of the fact that she wasn’t; and a more recent pirate from the high seas of finance has been able to inflict upon us his notion that his sons are statesmen, in spite of the fact that they aren’t. Now Mr. Hefner, apparently, has grown rich enough to attempt to inflict upon us his belief that he is a political economist, in spite of the fact that he has had only one economic brainstorm in his whole life: namely, that Americans will pay a lot of money to look at tits. Even there, he was not original, for Hollywood had staked out that goldmine thirty years ago, and a good anthropologist could have predicted it from the early weaning and bottle-feeding practiced by American mothers.
However, having discovered, a bit late, that his compatriots are tit-starved, and having cashed in on that discovery to the utmost, Mr. Hefner is now wealthy enough to pose as a new heir to the mantle of Adam Smith without fear that anybody will tell him to his face that he is making an utter ass of himself in public.
Mr. Hefner begins, in fine old midwestern rhetoric, by describing the finance-capital system as “free enter-prise.”
As genuine individualists such as Josiah Warren and Lysander Spooner started to point out over a century ago, this identification of capitalism with freedom is about as reasonable as identifying the Atlantic Ocean with the Sahara desert; for capitalism is that state of the market in which the issue of currency is monopolized by a minority of privileged persons, in such a manner that the wealth of the nation is steadily drained away from the actual producers into the vaults of the banks which hold this monopoly.
This monopoly is maintained, like all the other, and lesser, monopolies which it has spawned, by the police power of the Capitalist State; that is, by the laws which prohibit associations of farmers, workers and other actual producers from forming banks of issue to circulate goods without passing through the interest-syphon on the way.
These laws, I repeat, are enforced by the State; that is, by violence, or the threat of violence.
Since almost every act of exchange in a post-barter economy involves the use of those exchange-tickets which we call money, and since every product goes through a dozen or more exchanges in its development from raw materials to the final commodity purchased by the ultimate consumer, and since interest is levied all along the way, it should come as no surprise that Silvio Gesell was able to demonstrate inhis Natural Economic Order that the final price of the average commodity consists usually of 40% actual wages to workers and managers and 60% of interest-charges of various sorts.
The reader cannot fully grasp the beauty and horror of this statistic until he fully understands that every form of interest is just a monopoly-charge; that is, we are paying this tribute to the usurers only because laws made at their behest prevent us from exercising the liberty of using an exchange-medium that is not subject to their monopoly. We are paying them for the privilege of not being free.
To avoid having to_ answer arguments like this, Mr. Hefner indulges in the time-honored pretense of capitalist apologists that there is absolutely no alternative to capitalist tyranny except the worse tyranny of the Totalitarian “socialist” State. In his economic thinking there exists only the choice between “group-oriented collectivist socialism” and traditional capitalism.
In short, such genuinely free economic systems as Lysander Spooner’s real-estate cooperative banking would produce, or Douglas’s social credit plan, or Gesell’s free-money and free-land system, or Proudhon’s mutualism, and several others I could name, just don’t exist.
Now, it is pitiful for a grown man to get up in public and exhibit such a spectacle as Mr. Hefner does here. Either he is so ignorant of economic science that he does not know about these systems, in which case he has no business lecturing us on the subject; or he does know about them and is only feigning ignorance because he doesn’t know how to rebut them, in which case his intellectual integrity cannot be considered precisely of the highest calibre. On either alternative, the performance does not command respect.
Having muddied the waters of economic debate by confusing the monopolistic system of finance-capitalism with genuine freedom, and thereupon polluting the stream of knowledge still further by pretending that the alternative of genuine liberty doesn’t exist and we must choose between the tyranny of the House of Morgan or that of the House of Khrushchev, Mr. Hefner next proceeds to dump further garbage in the fountain of truth by the following intellectual sleight-of-hand:
“It is not because of any inherent flaw in American capitalism that Russia has been able to, catch up to us in many areas over the past 20 years-quite the contrary: it is because this country drifted dangerously in the direction of socialism during the Thirties and For-ties that we began to falter and fall behind.”
At this point I almost begin to feel sorry for Mr. Hefner, He is obviously in beyond his depth. He should stick to his métier of providing second-hand sex experience for the adolescents of all ages and leave the more subtle business of reasoning to grown men.
Unless he wants seriously to claim that the Byzantine State of Stalin was actually more free than FDR’s America, he is saying that capitalism is good because those who abolish it completely advance faster than those who modify it slightly. This is idiotic, but if Mr. Hefner is not saying this, what is he saying?
Whatever he is trying to say, if he is trying to say anything and not just indulging in linguistic solitaire or verbal masturbation, is equivalent to: It is not be-cause of any inherent cancer-producing agent in cigarettes that non-smokers live longer than smokers-quite the contrary: It is because many smokers drifted dangerously toward cutting their smoking down that the non-smokers managed to live longer than them.
If this argument is an incredible, almost illiterate, stupidity, then so is Mr. Hefner’s argument; and this argument is obviously an incredible, almost illiterate, stupidity.
Mr. Hefner’s next attempt to throw dust in the eyes of his readers is a long comparison of the “success” of Our Side and the “failure” of Their Side. Naturally, he very carefully doesn’t mention such starvation-camps as Latin America, South Korea, Spain, most of Passaic and Chicago and West Virginia, as parts of Our Side. Nor does he mention such facts as the glaring and uncomfortable truth that, under that dirty Marxist system, China and Russia, however backward they still may be, came from Feudalism to highly industrialized technology in decades, whereas it took capitalism several centuries to accomplish that in part of the West at the cost of keeping most of the West in a permanently Feudal position of exploited colonies.
We next hear that an American Renaissance has occurred, and this, of course, is attributed to capital-ism. It seems as reasonable to me if he were to attribute it to our diet. The fact is that, precisely like the gang of amazing Italianos who made the first Renaissance, the artists who have cropped up so magnificently in America lately are most often not the admirers of their society but its bitterest enemies.
Every one of them would sooner sell his ass to the queers than work for Mr. Hefner, or Mr. Luce, or any other glossy purveyor of the official ideology of our Power Elite. The unanimous testimony of our poets, novelists, painters and musicians is that America today is a sick, decadent, psychotic and dying culture.
Perhaps Mr. Hefner’s funniest paragraph concerns the burgeoning fascist movement in America today. “A few neofascist and hate groups have persisted up to the present,” he says, quietly ignoring the fact that the loudest and most popular groups of this sort were all started in the last decade and that new ones are starting every few months.
I suppose that if Chicago had two bubonic plague cases this week, four next week, a hundred the week after and a thousand within a month, Mr. Hefner would reassuringly inform us that “a few bubonic plague cases have persisted up to the present time.” He has no eye for the direction of events, obviously.
It is also richly comic to talk about a “few” neofascist groups in a nation in which one out of every ten persons is deprived of the rights of citizenship, in which FBI snoopers are under almost every bed, and in which the official government policy is based on acknowledged preparation for genocide.
Mr. Hefner next tells us that the educational system in America has been improving lately. At this point, I begin to wonder if he has been putting me on all along; perhaps his whole essay is a poker-faced rib?
Even I can remember a time when one would hear occasionally about an odd professor here or there who had balls -“So-and-so in the Economics department opened his mouth and said something in the classroom,” or “A fellow in the History department at Antioch occasionally lets a little real information creep in” – but such rumors have stopped during the last decade. The last professor with any gumption that I heard of is now working as a gardener in California. The others are tali-cab drivers, exiles in Mexico, or serving terms for contempt of the HUAC hoodoo.
Mr. Hefner’s final delusion is that America has achieved a “sexual revolution” in the past generation. If that were true, his postal onanism service would be bankrupt and he would have to print literature to make a living. We have had a sexual revolution to about the same extent that the Negro has achieved equality; there has been a lot of talk, but nothing has been done.
If there were a genuine sexual liberation in America, parents who bring their children up in freedom would not be subject to vigilante attacks by their neighbors, a thousand girls would not die of abortions every year in chiropodist’s offices, homosexuals would not be subject to assault and battery by every sadist in and out of uniform from coast to coast, the noodles of NODL would not continue to harass book dealers, Dr. Leo Koch would still be teaching at the University of Illinois, and young men would spend their evenings loving and communing with young Ladies instead of just gawking at them in Mr. Hefner’s Key Clubs.
Such, in brief, is an analysis of the philosophy of America’s most successful purveyor of counterfeit-sex. It just goes to show what money can do. Joe Kennedy can get his boys into the government, and Hugh Hefner can get his incoherence into print. I would like to draw a moral from this, but the only one I can think of is: Beware of the merchants of imitation sex; before you know it they will try to sell you imitation thought.