Spencer Heath's Personal Trinity

As mentioned above, Heath depicted "events," possessing the attribute "action," as having three quantifiable aspects or constituent dimensions, namely, "mass," "motion" and "time." He then referred to those dimensions of experience in terms of the physicists' standard units of "grams," "centimeters" and "seconds." On occasion he would compare the integration of these three abstract dimensions of reality comprising the concept of action with the Christian concept of the Trinity.

In discussing religious symbolism, Heath would link "trinity" with a small "t" and "Trinity" with a large "T." He would point out how the abstract concepts of mass, motion and time, which are actually experienced only in unity, are suggested in the Christian theologians' characterization of their "Ultimate Reality" in terms of "Substance, Power and Eternity"--more usually personalized as "Father, Son and Holy Spirit." He suggested that the theological apprehension of an ultimate reality in those trinitarian terms was evidence that religion might have anticipated the conclusions of modern physics. With this observation, Heath usually concluded his theological speculations.

Heath observed that theologians and scientists must necessarily deal with the same reality. However, the scientist apprehends it in finite terms and measures it in units such as gram, centimeter and second while the theologian contemplates its absolute or infinite aspects and makes poetic speculations. The scientist believes in absolutes but is resigned to live with only tentative knowledge of such as he seeks out an uncertain "heaven on Earth" in the here and now. The theologian, on the other hand, is quite certain that his beliefs will lead to a life everlasting in an imagined hereafter. As far as Heath was concerned, there is no inherent conflict and there can be no competition between science and religion because both proceed from a belief in an ultimate reality but seek different ends and employ different means.

Trinitarian symbolism suffused Spencer Heath's personal philosophy. Such an integration is reflected in the title he chose for his book, Citadel, Market and Altar. Those three words symbolized for him the three abstract departments or functions of society as he conceived it, all three of which are essential to the whole (the concept is reminiscent but independent of Rudolph Steiner's similar formulation in The Threefold Commonwealth, with which Heath was familiar).

Heath's "Citadel" stands for prudence, discipline and physical defense, impulses that make life in society possible. His "Market" represents the economic achievements that sustain social life at a given level. "Altar" symbolizes the inspired--the creative--life individuals in society become free to engage in as they achieve technological prowess and economic resourcefulness. Inspired and competent individuals, through pursuit of scientific discoveries and by employment of their technical and aesthetic arts--pursued and employed for their own sake and not from any sense of necessity--advance society, enabling it to ever transcend its past.

These ideas also suggested to Heath certain physical analogies. The citadel suggested mass, inertia or reaction, the ethical aspect of society that resists encroachment from within or without. The market signified motion--initiative, production and exchange--the metabolism of the community. The altar intimated the durational element, the eternal and immortal aspect of social events comprising inspirational, visionary, creative, evolutionary, transformational, aesthetic--i.e. qualitative--affairs.


Spencer Heath resisted the temptation to coin new words, avoiding jargon even as he struggled to define new concepts. He succeeded in finding suitable terms of discourse in the face of contradictory common usages of etymologically appropriate words. For example, the word "sociology" had the proper etymological credentials for naming the natural science of society he envisioned, but for him that term had come to stand for endeavors of questionable scientific qualification and results of doubtful relevance to humanity.

Perhaps by analogy with astronomy, in which the world is contemplated as an objective universe that goes along quite nicely by itself, Heath chose the word "socionomy" for the study of society as a natural outgrowth of individual human behavior that seems to proceed in a like manner. Heath employed this term instead of "sociology" because it suited his concentration on discovering the organic laws of society as a natural phenomenon and was free of extraneous and ulterior usages.

In addressing the special nature of man, the question whether man is somehow apart from the rest of nature and not susceptible of scientific investigation, Heath saw fit to confront the age-old controversy regarding "free-will" versus "determinism." He suggested that these contrasting views of the world can be appreciated as merely two aspects of the same thing like the face and obverse sides of the coin of nature. He pointed out how the intrinsic attributes of a rock "will" the course of its natural history, which in turn is "determined" by the interacting forces in the rock's environment. Likewise, men are bound to act in whatever environment they find themselves in accordance with their individual natures which are neither random nor mechanistic but are willful and consistent with those unique, intrinsic, infinitely variable attributes, whatever they are.

Physicists and engineers who embrace the quantum viewpoint and practice the principles of physics derived therefrom have brought about some of the world's greatest technological achievements. This connection was not lost on Spencer Heath. With the quantum viewpoint in mind, he looked for correspondences in the domain of human social phenomena, which until then had revealed few regularities to scientific inquiry. His investigation was destined to put those phenomena in a new perspective and to establish an approach to their study that would be eminently faithful to them.

For Spencer Heath, a dependable technology was the hallmark of authentic science. The action concept, encompassing as it does the abstract dimensions of experience, led him to the generalization that technology, in whatever domain of application, consists in the deliberate reproportioning of real events to accord with men's desires. Such reproportionment consists of knowledgeably influencing the content of events by emphasizing any one of the three quantifiable aspects of experience. Heath would show that this generalization holds in the social field as truly as in the physical, but that reproportionment in the social field tends to focus on maximizing the durational element. As a result, technological advancement accounts not only for social progress but also for the transcendence of social life over mere animal existence.

Heath's Social Quantum

Bringing the action (or quantum) viewpoint to bear in the domain of human social phenomena appears to have been a turning point in Heath's thinking. Reasoning that every good science, as exemplified by physics, must have a fundamental unit of experience to distinguish its particular domain of phenomena and to establish a foundation for its development, he postulated the individual human person and his life, taken as a whole, to be that discrete, indivisible social event--the essential and irreducible social quantum.

Proceeding from this fundamental conception of a social quantum, Heath was led to the conclusion that society is composed of spontaneously-acting individuals in reciprocal relationships. When such individuals, each and every, are uncompromised in their natural habitat, society arises out of this environment and develops, evolves, interacts, organizes, elaborates and grows inexorably as a natural phenomenon.

It is curious how Heath's "action" concept of society, although entirely different in meaning from the usage of the great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises,4 nevertheless led him to very similar conclusions regarding the nature of humane society. However, unlike Mises, Heath disdained the use of such ideologically-charged terms as "laissez faire," "liberal," "democratic" and "capitalistic" to characterize what he believed to be progressive social phenomena.

Heath found it productive to distinguish between society and the human population as a whole. He identified society expressly in terms of symbiotic, consensual and volitional behavior. Thus, those members of the population temporarily practicing the contrary kind of behavior would not, during that interim, be included in the societal fraction of the population. By virtue of such alienating behavior, such persons would have taken themselves out of the social scene and returned to their original arena of life by reverting to their more primitive animal natures. Consequently, in Heath's view, the human population consists of a jungle of conflict and coercion at the frontier of an ever expanding sphere of social life.

In this endless process of becoming, Heath saw the individuals comprising the socially-interactive part of the population as both benefactors and beneficiaries vis-a-vis the residuum of the population containing prey and predators. This paradigm would explain for him the symbiosis that produces a semblance of continuity in a world of seemingly discrete and chaotic events. For in the resulting transformation of human biological life into human societal life, there develops a creative force wholly different from, yet altogether compatible with, the biological units themselves. In this sense, society is something other than merely the sum of its parts.

Heath thus conceived of society as a population within a population. This concept implies that society has a constituency that is ever subject to change. Social islands form spontaneously and are thus ever open to admission from the animal arena. A clear implication of this concept is that the behavior manifested in traditional political government--as well as and no less than that manifested in free-lance criminality--lies in the other (non-social) part of the population, since such activities violate the integrity of other human individuals. Such practices are contrary to normal social behavior because they constitute assumptions of authorities (attributes) that cannot be universally exercised by the human population in general.

However, Heath believed those persons who might have engaged in such contrary activity face no permanent bar to entering the social habitat. Quite the opposite, for consistent with their dual natures as critters or creators they may (and do) come and go at will, perhaps staying longer with each visit in the social realm as they discover for themselves how social behavior enhances their lives. Those who are already behaving socially will not need to build a great wall of protection or to hire various gangs of armed pickets when they find that knowledge and prudence generally suffices in their dealings with the population at large.

Heath's view of taxation and its related coercions is illustrative. He perceived that these social insults are in the process of being outgrown. Human society for Heath was like a developing social organism, an evolving order of biological entities that, like other progressive life forms, completes its structures and functions as it continues to evolve and mature. Thus it should not be surprising that, like all developing organisms in their immature juvenile states, society manifests certain crudities as does every newborn. But as the human societal life form continues to evolve, according to Heath, administration of its public community affairs is destined to pass altogether from the political arena into the domain of the free market--that is, to be absorbed into society or superseded by evolving social practices. Statecraft with its built-in conflicts and inclinations toward intimidation and conquest will ineluctably be abandoned as obsolete in favor of peaceful and productive social institutions.

During a good part of his life, Spencer Heath had pondered the question of how a market for public community services would ultimately be served consistent with the nature of society as he saw it. He was attracted to the largely libertarian 'Philosophy of Freedom' of Henry George but struggled for years to resolve the problems inherent in his "single-tax" proposal. He was troubled by George's proposal that government should monopolize land ownership and ground rents on behalf of "the community," finding that such an arrangement retained the seed of totalitarianism.

He finally realized that ground rent, paid voluntarily to a community owner or owners, affords a total alternative to taxation and bureaucracy. In his 1935 monograph, Politics Versus Proprietorship, he showed how proprietary administration is a viable alternative to political administration of that part of community life that is enjoyed in common. This was the breakthrough discovery that had eluded Henry George. It was a breakthrough because it is precisely that aspect of human life--the quest for community--that provides the traditional excuse for politics and taxation which inevitably lead away from community toward human bondage.

It was a remarkable finding by Heath that communities have owners--i.e. the owners of the underlying realty--who, once they understood their own interest, could organize and manage community enterprises along proprietary lines and deliver public services competitively for profit. Having lifted the veil of mystery surrounding this remaining vestige of political usurpation, Heath saw in the modern hotel a working example of proprietary community arrangements that are successful notwithstanding the taxation and regulatory handicaps that prevail in the community at large.

Heath found prospects for the proprietary administration of public services in the greater community to be especially promising should the presently divided and separate ownerships in land merge to form incorporeal entities, thus enabling widespread ownership of undivided (i.e. joint or share) interests in the community. He found such arrangements to be in total accord with the normal pattern of ownership in a hotel or other multiple-tenant income property. That the community owners might then be the same as the tenants was an intriguing possibility, but Heath did not find such a status to be essential for either equity or practicality since the favorable social results he foresaw would necessarily derive from the integrity and ingenuity of contracts, not from any plebiscitary ritual.

Measuring Social Performance

The physicist's notion of action was the key to Heath's remarkable integration of social thinking. That concept was not only his anchor to reality but it also provided him with an appropriate tool with which to apply the scientific method to social affairs.

Spencer Heath's "Energy Concept of Population"--more accurately, his action concept of population--developed in chapter three of Citadel, Market and Altar represents the integration of his social discoveries. In this treatment, which adroitly illustrates what he means by socionomy, he takes into account not merely the number of people comprising a population but also their average life-span.

Consider a given generation of human individuals, defined by a proper census, as representing the energy content of an event in human history. The average life-span of that population as determined by actuarial methods will be its duration. The product of these two abstract quantities will give the magnitude of this human event as a quantity of action expressed in terms of "life-years." In the durational component, to the extent it exceeds the time required for biological maturation and reproduction essential for continuing the population as such, Heath found evidence of the social nature of that population and its quality of life. (Consider the implications if such a figure of social merit were to supersede reliance on such trumped-up measures as "gross national product.")

Combining these two aspects of a population as a measure of its social viability, he manages to explain human behavior with breathtaking implications. His analysis of the constituent units and their relations with respect to the quantitative and qualitative aspects of society is as precise as it is poetic.

Heretofore, science, with its inclination to quantify, has been severely handicapped in the social field by the lack of a universally recognized measure of quality, or value, in human terms. In the preponderance of scientific deliberations numbers suffice to determine the "most," the "least" and the "optimum". Qualitative judgments are always exterior, frequently controversial, considerations. Hence arise the interminable arguments over politics, morality, ethics, justice and social conscience. This is ironic in view of the growing confidence in science in almost every other aspect of human life. It is fair to ask, therefore, how it happens that science, so successful in so many ways, seems unable to settle such arguments.

Heath transcended all such controversy. The energy content of social events failed to intrigue him because he observed that individual human variation in such terms as size, weight, strength, energy, mental capacity, talent, sex, skin-color, disease resistance, environment, etc. did not distinguish human populations sufficiently to explain the extreme variation observable in their "quality of life" in the aggregate. His concentration instead was on the durational aspect of those populations as human events which he could account for in his unit of human action, the "life-year." From that vantage he could observe how certain types of human behavior affected longevity and how that longevity was related to all manner of human productivities and satisfactions--noting that the extension of individual life beyond the minimum for procreative necessity was the most significant variable. With this standard, Heath could focus on the behavioral elements that affected life-span as a whole. He identified those elements that he found contributing to longevity as the truly "social" phenomena. Contribution to human longevity thus became his criterion of social life which he applied in his examination of every kind of human behavior from economics to politics to religion to art.

It was the durational aspect of events that enabled Heath to conceive of a bridge linking the quantitative world of traditional science and the more subjective, qualitative world of human society. For he discerned that a fundamental relationship exists between the durational component of events and the human world of choice and preference. No mere analogies with the findings of physics could have sufficed for this purpose.

An intimate and fundamental relationship between the durational component of events and the subjective values manifested by every acting human being can readily be demonstrated. Consistent with Heath's observations of reality as well as with Mises' conceptions of human action, each person's life is perceived by himself to be severely limited to a finite duration of which no precious moment is to be relived, and in which, with each passing moment, there arises the desire to make the next better than the last. This temporal imperative explains what ultimately compels us all to prioritize, evaluate, discriminate, choose, commit, act, save, spend and exchange--i.e. manage, venture and trade--based on each person's egocentric frame of reference, regardless of his state of preparation or degree of enlightenment.

Notwithstanding great variation in the consequences of this imperative--each individual person is affected differently--the imperative itself is universal. So is the risk that the decisions we are each bound to make, based on the always incomplete knowledge at hand, may turn out to be inappropriate to the future state of affairs we desire for our lives. Each of us readily concedes that a similar burden befalls his fellow man, whoever or wherever he may be. Here was more evidence of human connectivity to account for a sense of social fabric, structure or continuity. This perception of a kind of universal and impersonal kinship among humans could account for the existence of community life going well beyond mere familial, tribal or ethnic alliances.

Heath found the concept of durability to be thoroughly embedded in human action. It emerges as the criterion upon which we all rely to assign priorities among the values we ascribe to our lives and to the goods, institutions and traditions we associate with our lives. Moreover, he showed that the test of successful organization, design, structure and practice is precisely that it endures and, necessarily therefore, at no expense to the durability of its constituent units. Durability thus marks the qualitative difference. Thus the entrepreneur strives for profit not merely because--as some would say--he is greed prone, but because the achievement of profits--via competitive, voluntary exchange methods--offers him the only means by which he can make his venture last.

Property, the Ticket to Social Life

The durational component of action is related to two of the most fundamental motivations of human life--self-preservation and self advancement. Man's reach is for survival and then beyond mere survival. His reach is for both quantity and quality of life. Derivative of this observation, Heath found that the social convention known as "property" stands out as a phenomenon of critical importance.

Heath departs from the traditionally moral view of ownership as a matter of individual rights granted from a "higher authority." His analysis proceeds from his observations of ownership functioning as a social institution. The unspoken social convention, or covenant, establishing the institution of property he found to be the essential factor that makes all the rest of the spectrum of social relations possible, thereby directly enhancing durability (longer life). The duration of one's life and the time available for living it fully is served on the one hand, he explains, by "quiet possession" (property in the individual or private sense), and on the other by the specialization of services and exchange (property in the social sense). He shows how this social convention enables men and women to moderate the temporal imperative each faces and with which each must deal in his own way.

Property in the individual sense is said to be owned. Ownership, therefore, is the status that derives from the social condition of quiet possession. MacCallum points out that the root of the word own is the same as for the word owe.5 Thus, to own property enables one to owe another. This is suggestive that property has long been regarded as having a reciprocal social function.

Heath might readily have characterized the institution of property in some manner like the following: Ownership and its socially dynamic corollary of exchange liberate the imagination, open the path to immortality and inspire the prospect of infinite creation. Property is truly the social capital in nature which underwrites man's inclinations to perfect his life, to nurture his offspring, to cultivate his community and to preserve the prospects of succeeding generations of his species.

Heath thus analyzes the convention of property as having a dual nature, an individual and a social aspect, both of which he finds embedded in consensual (volitional) phenomena. The individual aspect, quiet possession, is precedent. It calls for a covenant among men, at least among those in the neighborhood, that thou shalt not do (trespass, etc.). This covenant of quiet possession confers more than an immediate benefit in terms of personal security. It is the true social covenant for it establishes the tolerance that enables exchange by means of which man may serve himself by serving others. Without quiet possession, not only is there no secure production or consumption; there is nothing secure to exchange.

While he discovered the social aspect of property in the process of exchange, Heath found exchange to be quite evidently derivative of quiet possession because it occurs only when a transaction is mutual, and mutuality cannot be established if the status of the parties with respect to the contemplated exchange is ambiguous. Exchange proceeds only upon agreement --which is contract--to do that which prompts other participants to do their part freely in return, i.e. to reciprocate.

Exchange is man's principal agency of self-improvement because improvement requires doing and, obviously, not just anything will do. Some "doings" cause conflict, which detracts from life. Others, lacking technological prowess, not only fail to gratify but are wasteful of time and materials. Thus, it is the individual drive for self improvement that underlies the consensus for reciprocity characterizing civil society everywhere. That man civilizes himself is a consequence of his drive for self improvement. Such civilizing tendencies are recognized by economists in what they call "the division or specialization of labor" and by sociologists in what they see as a virtually universal quest for "education."

Heath defined property in its social sense in strictly operational terms, namely, as "that which can become the subject-matter of contract." This was no mere abstract definition to suit his theoretical constructions. He would rely on what is meant by "contract" to explain the origin and operation of proprietary administration, which he showed to be the only truly rational form of administration for whatever social purpose.

Possibly a result of his training in law, Heath was satisfied that Anglo-Saxon common-law notions of contract were reliable, reinforcing his view of property as a social institution. According to this conception, property is a natural phenomenon that is discovered by man who, upon such discovery, may characterize it as "natural law." "Property," so understood, is no more a creation of man-made law, or statute, than are language, art, music, arithmetic, common law, family, money, etc.

Heath was aware of widespread confusion in the minds of the public regarding the institution of property. He recognized that many unthinkingly enjoy its blessings while harboring ancient beliefs that property and wealth--which naturally tend to become unevenly distributed and envy being an ever-present emotion--are merely personal goods to be consumed or destroyed at will in self-indulgent, sometimes even sinister gratifications. He also attributed such beliefs to the fact that until comparatively recent times most large accumulations of wealth were gathered through political predation and not through services voluntarily rendered in the market. In this web of superstition he included the further view that only the legally privileged owner can enjoy property socially, and then only when he is taxed pursuant to some social pretense of political government.

Heath observed that, at least in the modern world, property functions in precisely the opposite manner. He observed that, except in the hands of government, the great community of wealth is in the form of capital goods and facilities which naturally flow by voluntary exchange toward the fulfillment of human satisfactions of all kinds, particularly those of the most numerous and least resourceful. In this process, such capital would surely dissipate and dissolve were it not regenerated in the same process by the genius of proprietary administration.

Thus Heath showed how covenant and contract (tolerance and reciprocity) are the essential ingredients underlying the truly social development of mankind. The strictly consensual nature of these practices assures the integrity of the participating parties, thereby allowing their full free-functioning and interfunctioning. The humane consistency of the resulting arrangements is symbiotic and viable, enabling them to endure while other less-universal arrangements, at odds with the integrity of the units, are self defeating and alienating. Lacking durability, such practices must fall away in time. Thus is social behavior ever in the ascendant.6

[Here ends the second of three transmissions into which this paper has been divided. The third and last segment begins with the heading, "Conclusions."]

Spencer H. MacCallum
PO Box 180
Tonopah NV 89049
(702) 482-2038