In this unique book from 1887, Marxist author Edward Bellamy of Massachusetts travels to an American socialist utopia in the year 2000 and converses with a fictitious Dr. Leete who explains government ownership of various industries, including publishing. All citizens are employed in the industrial army and each is paid according to his or her need. To gain the public eye and ear, aspiring authors would need government approval but suffer from absolutely no censorship.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
The American Socialist Utopia of 2000
“I judge then, that there has been some notable literature produced in this century?”
“Yes,” said Dr. Leete. “It has been an era of unexampled intellectual splendor. Probably humanity never before passed through a moral and material evolution, at once so vast in scope and brief in its time of accomplishment, as that from the old order to the new in the early part of this century…”
“By the way,” said I, “talking of literature, how are books published now? Is that also done by the nation?”
“But how do you manage it? Does the government publish everything that is brought it as a matter of course, at the public expense, or does it exercise a censorship and print only what it approves?”
“Neither way. The [government] printing department has no censorial powers. It is bound to print all that is offered it, but prints it only on the condition that the author defray the first cost out of his credit. He must pay for the privilege of the public ear, and if he has any message worth hearing we consider that he will be glad to do it.
Of course, if incomes were unequal, as in the old times, this rule would enable only the rich to be authors, but the resources of citizens being equal, it simply measures the strength of the author’s motive. The book, on being published, is placed on sale by the nation.”
“If you have newspapers at all, they must . . . be published by the government at public expense, with government editors, reflecting government opinions.”
“Not as with you, certainly,” replied Dr. Leete, “but nevertheless in one way. The price of every book is made up of the cost of publication with a royalty for the author. The author fixes this royalty at any figure he pleases. If his book be moderately successful, he has thus a furlough for several months, a year, two or three more years, and if he in the mean time produces other successful work, the remission of service is extended so far as the sale of that may justify. [In this manner] there is no such thing as favoritism of any sort to interfere with the recognition of true merit. Every author has precisely the same facilities for bringing his work before the public tribunal.
The newspaper press is organized so as to be a more perfect expression of public opinion than it could possibly could be in your day, when private capital controlled and managed it primarily as a money-making business, and secondarily only as a mouthpiece for the people.
The subscribers to the paper now elect somebody as editor . . . Instead of paying a salary to him, as in your day, the subscribers pay the nation an indemnity equal to the cost of his [personal] support for taking him away from the general support [of the nation]. When an editor’s services are no longer desired, if he cannot earn the right to his time by other literary work, he simply resumes his place in the industrial army.”
(Looking Backward, 2000-1887, Edward Bellamy, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1887, pp. 161-168)