An elephant. A mouse built to government specifications.
Robert Heinlein, “The Notebooks of Lazarus Long”
An elephant. A mouse built to government specifications.
Robert Heinlein, “The Notebooks of Lazarus Long”
Let’s talk about -isms, in particular political -isms
Oh and we’re working with a bit of obscure and boring stuff here, so if you aren’t into theoretical underpinnings of political systems, go ahead to the next post.
There are several over-arching political -isms that you can use to categorize most of the other isms; and they can be arranged into two axes, the axis of rach, and the axis of force.
At a fundemantal level all systems come down to the structure and limits of governmental reach, and governmental force. In other words, how many areas the government has a legitimate interest in controlling, and how much control they have over it.
The first measure, reach; is bounded on the extreme low end by true anarchism: The belief that there is no legitmate role for government of any kind.
On the extreme high end of reach, we have the totalitarians, who believe that there is no limit to the legitimate reach of government. Government can and SHOULD be involved in all aspects of life.
The other axis is force; delineating how much authority government should have over it’s legitimate areas of reach, and how much force can be used to execute that authority.
At the extreme low end of the force scale are anti-coerciveism (also called anti-intialism) and pacifism. The first is a philosophy of rule that declares no coercive force of any kind can be initiated against any other for any reason. Pacifism is somewhat different, in that it rejects all force, whether it be coercive, neutral, or defensive in nature as illegitimate; whereas the anti-coercives allow for defensive force, and the response to an initiation of force.
At the other end of the axis are the authoritarians, who believe that government has the legitimate authority to use all force it deems necessary within it’s legitmate reach.
You can see that all political philosophies will have a position on these axes, even if they are somewhat fuzzy, and may actually need to be plotted as a curve (most systems would be); but you can loosley classify the major political-isms handily.
It would seem clear that the most harmful systems to liberty would be the authoritarian totalitarian systems:
Democratism (yes, this is without question harmful to liberty because it submits the will of the majority as the absolute authority)
Hierarchicalism (these include meritism, oligopolism, monopolism etc..)
Islamism (and other political theisms)
Conversely one would assume that the systems most conducive to liberty would be the opposite, true anarchy. Unfortunately, this is not the case; because without any form of government, or the ability to initiate force against others, a society will inevitably collapse into crime, and the rule of the strong over the week will assuredly prevail.
The systems that tend towards maximising human liberty are the ones more to the middle, that limit the reach of government, and strictly limit it’s authority within that reach; but which allow for an effective defense against both external attack, and internal parasitism and criminalism:
Limited Republicanism (which is NOT democratism)
You might note that democracy, republics, even purely constitutional states aren’t necessarily good for liberty; because they allow for the tyranny of the majority. These systems can easily become authoritarian at the whim of an angry populace.
It is necessary to have a strictly, and structurally limited form of government in order to prevent both the rise of strongment, and the tyranny of the majority.
One might also note that collectivism isn’t necesarrily harmful to liberty, so long as that collectivism isn’t involuntary (as in communism, marxism etc…). For example, in syndicalsim, the participation in the collective is voluntary ; and it is entirely acceptable that one may perform actions in competition with syndicates, or in co-operation with them, without being a member. I generally dont consider syndicalism the best system for maximizing liberty, but it CAN be an effective way for anti-coercive individuals to provide for collective action without the initiation of force.
Most people who call themselves anarchists, are in fact anarcho capitalists, or anarcho syndicalists, who believe that there should be no government, and no governmental authority, but that markets or voluntary collective action can provide all the functions necessary for a government.
I think both of these philoshophies are a bit off; both simplistic in ways, overly dependent on uncertainties in others; and in both cases unreasonably optimistic about the purity of their systems. Only if the systems are kept rigorously pure can they properly function; and the mechanisms for assuring this purity are explicitlty disallowed by the nature of the systems.
To my mind, the best systems for human liberty are minarchist systems (of any structure); which specifically limit the government to the most basic functions:
This would allow for far more government reach and authority than anarchists, and even most libertarians would allow for; however it is very difficult to have a functioning society containing more than a few thousand individuals without those enumerated functions.
In a minarchist systems, the absolute minimal rach, and authority of government are strictly defined, and then strictly enforced, through a consitution, and code of laws to enforce it, which CANNOT be overridden; except by the overthrow of the government.
In these systems, it is not necessary to change the constitution; because the constitution only specifies that which as absolutely necessary to the function of government. All else is either left to the individual, or codified in law. This prevents a supermajority from forming to change the constitution to the detriment of individual liberty (a common argument anarchists use against constitutional systems).
If such a supermajority DOES form, it can simply overthrow the government and form another one; which is the ultimate recourse of any population. Of coruse in this they may forma new government harmful to liberty, but so long as they do not coerce others into that form of government, they are wlcome to do so. If they DO coerce others, than there is ample justification for resistance with force.
Of course if the force is 1/3 vs 2/3 and no chance of outside support… well then you’re screwed. Go read “The Moon is a harsh mistress”.
In part two we’ll go into a lot more detail about the systems themselves.
Crossposted from The Anarchangel
Yep, its Tuesday again, which means that Carnival of Liberty 35 is up at Owlish Mutterings. I haven’t had a chance to read all the posts yet, but it looks like we’ve got a great line-up yet again. Go check it out.
Democracy is based on the assumption that a million men are wiser than one man. How’s that again? I missed something.
Autocracy is based on the assumption that one man is wiser than a million men. Let’s play that over again too. Who decides?
At first glance, if you’ve read my bio, you might wonder what the heck a gal like me could have to say about the war on drugs. If you really don’t know me, you might read to the first line of the fifth paragraph of my bio and immediately discount anything I have to say – but hey, that’s your right and your bias – not mine.
But in reality, I’m in a unique position to comment on this topic – for a couple reasons. First, I have no hidden agenda. I’m an almost 45 year old woman who has NEVER so much as smoked a cigarette. I’ve never eaten a pot brownie or smoked a joint. Never tried any mind altering drugs – other than the occasional glass of wine or mixed drink. To say I’m “squeaky” clean when it comes to the usage of drugs is an understatement, and the only things I can attribute it to are good parents and teachings, and a very strong sense of needing to be in control. So if and when drugs are ever legalized, I’ll probably still not partake. My need to be in control of myself and my actions far outweighs any curiosity that I have.
What has got me thinking about this today was watching 60 Minutes last night and seeing the segment on Marc Emery entitled “Prince of Pot“. It seems that Marc Emery (who may be far better known to others than he was to me) has been selling marijuana seeds for years over the internet to folks all over the world. He’s currently under indictment for selling and distributing marijuana (among other things) and is waiting to see if the Canadian government is going to extradite him to the US.
I truly, honestly believe that the “war on drugs” is a bogus waste of time and money, and we’d be much better off if we simply legalized at least marijuana and allowed it’s free and open use as we do alcohol. The only caveat would be that users would have to be aware that penalties for crimes or accidents committed under the influence would result in very stiff penalties.
The upshot of legalizing pot would be to put a lot of dealers out of business – the war on drugs as it stands right now is really good for their business – they don’t want legalization – and that’s what I see as a difference between Marc Emery and drug dealers. You see, Marc Emery WANTS marijuana to be legalized, and he’s spent the majority of his profits trying to institute change in a system he believes to be wrong.
One area that was not touched upon in the “Prince of Pot” segment was one I consider to be important – that of the need for marijuana for medical use, which is just as illegal in the US as non-medical use. If I had a friend or family member who had a disease which could be eased by the use of marijuana, (i.e. glaucoma, cancer, MS, chronic pain, etc.) I’d want them to be able to use it if it could ease their suffering – and that without being concerned that it was an illegal substance.
I haven’t had the time to fully examine the site, but the Drug Policy Alliance appears to be one of the best sites promoting common sense when it comes to a drug policy in the United States.
So, here I am, mother of two, straight arrow, fiscal conservative, social liberal and against the war on drugs. Whew. Politics do make strange bedfellows, eh?
In Massachusetts, the government is all in a dither about the health-care crisis supposedly gripping the state. And two of the leading Democrats, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House (both houses over 84% Democratic) have apparently worked out a deal: any employer with ten or more employees will have to offer them some form of coverage, or pay $295/year per employee that would go towards public health care.
Setting aside the notion that the moneys would, indeed, be used for such a purpose (I don’t think the Massachusetts legislature has EVER respected an “earmarking” of funds, instead just tossing it into the general fund and spending it on whatever tickles their fancies), I think this could have a tremendous boost to the economy.
Well, the economies of neighboring states, especially us here in New Hampshire.
Massachussetts politicians would be wise to learn a valuable lesson: You can shear a sheep again and again, but skin him only once. Massachussetts, like most populous states with larger cities, have a nearly-captive audience. There are a lot of reasons that people want to live in Boston; having visited the city, I enjoy it. With such a captive audience, it is a lot easier to extract taxation from your state.
I liken it to poker. If you’re an expert poker player, and you’re trying to get into a weekly game with your buddies, you don’t want to send them home broke every week, or suddenly your buddies will have “prior commitments” spring up. The game won’t last too long, because below-average poker players like to win at least often enough to think they’ve got a chance. The optimal strategy is to win, but not to punish people you expect to play in the future. (Of course, in a tournament, or if you’re playing in a casino, where you won’t play those people again, all bets are off. Play all-out.)
The same rule applies to tax policy. You push, and you push, and you push, and the system creaks and groans, but holds up against the pressure. Then you push a little farther, and people give up. Massachusetts is one of the few states in the country to lose population year over year. Even states like California, which lose large numbers of residents each year (a statistic I’m glad to be a part of), have enough immigration to offset the loss. Massachussetts isn’t called Taxachussetts without reason. And now they’re piling one more big tax on top of it all.
Cities like Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, are like geese who lay golden eggs. You treat them right, and they’ll pay off for a long time. But when you try to take it all at once, don’t be surprised when the golden goose stops producing.
The Athenian model was purely
a tax on wealth, whereas “modern democracies” (democracy is dangerous, by the way) favor a progressive tax scheme, which is a graduated tax, primarily on income, i.e. “from each according to his ability…”. In fact, the proponents of progressive taxation are quite varied. For instance, the following comes from the aforementioned Wikipedia article:
Thomas Jefferson: “We are all the more reconciled to the tax on importation, because it falls exclusively on the rich…In fact, the poor man in this country who uses nothing but what is made within his own farm or family, or within the United States, pays not a farthing of tax to the general government…the farmer will see his government supported, his children educated, and the face of his country made a paradise by the contributions of the rich alone…”
Karl Marx: “In the most advanced countries the following will be pretty generally applicable:..a heavy progressive or graduated income tax.”
It might appear, at first blush, that progressive taxation is intuitively rational. After all, it’s only fair, right? Those with more means ought to “give back” to society, so the thinking seems to go. Beyond that, there are economic arguments in favor of a progressive tax:
“As income levels rise, levels of consumption tend to fall. Thus it is often argued that economic demand can be stimulated by reducing tax burden on lower incomes while raising the burden on higher incomes.”
The idea that government ought to seize and redistribute wealth is not new. Arguably, it’s most notable proponent is John Maynard Keynes, who, in 1935, wrote: “I believe myself to be writing a book on economic theory which will largely revolutionize — not, I suppose, at once, but in the course of the next ten years — the way the world thinks about economic problems”. In short, his theory goes something like this:
Keynesians' belief in aggressive government action to stabilize the economy is based on value judgments and on the beliefs that (a) macroeconomic fluctuations significantly reduce economic well-being, (b) the government is knowledgeable and capable enough to improve upon the free market, and (c) unemployment is a more important problem than inflation.
Seventy years later, after innumerable examples of its failure (e.g. western Europe, socialist and communist countries world-wide and to some extent, post WWII America), folks still hope against hope that progressive taxation (i.e. coercive confiscation) is the solution to the problem of poverty and so-called “social injustice”.
Don’t misunderstand…I’m not suggesting that all taxation ought to be eliminated. I’m not an anarchist, so I believe that some form of government is necessary, albeit an irreducibly small one. That is, government ought to be empowered to do that which the market, in conjunction with free individuals, cannot do… nothing more. In such an environment, the best possible mechanism by which the basic functions of government could be funded is a tax on consumption, like the Fair Tax, for example. That way, taxation would be almost entirely voluntary, in that one is taxed only when one chooses to spend, as opposed to having an ever-increasing percentage of one’s income ravaged for the benefit of others; those who do nothing whatever to earn that which they receive from the beneficent hand of government.
Needless to say, the current paradigm creates a viagra professional 100mg disincentive to create wealth, for the rich and poor alike. The former are punished for being successful, while the latter are rewarded for a lack of economic success. How did this become the
What percentage of Saddam Hussein's weapons came from Britain and America? I ask because
on the rare occasions the BBC mentions Saddam's genocidal crimes it always says he was 'armed by the West.'
I bet you can't guess the answer. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a mere 0.46 per cent of conventional weapons bought between 1973 and 2002 came from America and 0.17
per cent came from Britain. The overwhelming majority came from France and the Soviet Union, while West Germany gave Saddam the plant
to make the poisons he used to gas the Kurds.
WASHINGTON — Media analysts sounded an increasingly gloomy note today following news that a full-scale outbreak of civil war in Iraq had been averted. “The prospects for regime change in Washington seem increasingly remote,” said one senior White House reporter who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Hah! Read the whole thing.