Monday, June 25, 2007

The Derivation of Law and Rights

There are numerous conceptions of where law, rights and property come from. They all hinge on various assumptions dealing with the question of human nature.

"Natural law" and "polycentric law" is like a naturalization process whereby rules form spontaneously over time, not necessarily from deliberate human design, but as a consequence of human action that did not even necessarily intend to create such a law. It is law that is not necessarily tracable to a single origin. It arises out of society's need for social cooperation. It is the law of social cooperation. Polycentric law arises out of voluntary agreement by all individuals and parties involved. Understood in an evoluntionary sense, it arises out of man's need to adapt to their environment and fullfil what's necessary for the general well-being of the species. Natural laws can also be seen as archetypes, as universalities that make their way into all cultures in one form or another.

Some people deny that there is such thing as any natural law, or that there are no natural laws of human action. This claim requires one to reject the natural sciences entirely if it is to be taken seriously. Is the natural sciences not the source of the discovery of the laws of nature, of the physical universe? The universe is not completely subjective and arbitrary. The universe functions on the basis of specific natural laws. Humans are part of the universe. Humans, too, function on the basis of specific natural laws, in accordance with those of the physical world. Humans, like all other physical objects, have a specific nature.

In the physical sense, the field of biology sheds some light on human nature. The field of economics, or more specifically praxeology, has also uncovered laws of economics that are essentially laws of human action. Psychology, while it has been boggled down in absurdity by some, has also yielded a certain level of insight into human nature. And our general experience as human beings gives us some insight into our nature, and has lead to what could be called a certain "moral sense" as to our individuality as well as to our relationship to other individuals. As Herbert Spencer once observed, people support the rights of others in proportion to their sense of their own rights.

One view of human nature that manifests itself historically in all sorts of ways is the Hobbesian state of nature concept. The Hobbesian claim that in the abscence of a central authority everyone is at war with eachother is an unfounded dogma that leads to radical pessemism, and of course, a reliance on central authority. Locke, on the other hand, while he was certainly flawed, had a much better conception of human nature than Hobbes did, because Locke actually recognized the existance of the sovereignty of the individual.

The Hobbesian concept of human nature has served power well historically. It inherently must lead to an assumed necessitity for central state authority, lest there be chaos. It manifests itself in modern politics in all sorts of ways. To many modern leftists, for example, if social programs were cut or if welfare were privatized there would be a drastic increase in poverty. To many modern rightists, for example, if we pulled out of Iraq or if we ended the drug war, people would be dieing left and right from overdoses and our country would be turned into a theocracy imposed by Muslims by invasion. The hobbesian concept uses fear to obtain obedience to central authority.

Herbert Spencer put forth a naturalist view where the Hobbesian "war of all against all" was the conditions necessitated in man's earlier state, and that man's state has advanced to a degree since then through social evolution. The degree of tyranny that exists today is the inertia left over from the earlier conditions of man's living where brute force was "necessary" for survival. On the other hand, on an individual basis more and more people have decided to live largely voluntarily as time has passed; social conventions changed as to outlaw barbarisms of the past such as burning people at the stake in public and the popular use of torture.

Man has not yet fully adapted to the voluntary state. That does not mean that he is incapable of adaptation, and has not made some progress towards adapting towards the voluntary state already. In the west, we have suceeded in rolling back the church-state and chattel slavery. In the 18th and 19th century, fuedalism and monarchy were rolled back meaningfully for the first time in the west. This does not mean that vestiges of them do not still exist in our society, of course. But the social progress also has its own inertia. It has manifested itself in modern times in technological and economic progress, as well as some minor improvements in social interrelations.

On the other hand, social retrogressions are possible. We have been going through one ever since the 2nd half of the 19th century, with the rise of the warfare and welfare state around the world. While social progress has gone on somewhat in social interrelations, technology and capital formation, the rise of the modern democratic state stands as a bulwark of coercion pushing back in the other direction.

The degree of slavery and war, and tyranny in general, in history has been directly in proportion to the degree to which coercive government exists. In short, coercive government was "necessary" to a more primitive state of man than the current one. As history progresses, as technology improves, as cooperation and voluntary methods prove to be obviously more efficient, as capital forms, government becomes less and less "necessary". It is nonsensical to presume that government is a necessarily permanent institution.

Unfortunately, there is a disease. It's called legal positivism. The legal positivist defines rights as whatever the government recognizes to be rights in the positive law at the given moment, which can only fall back on the status quo. The legal positivist believes that all law, all rights and property itself derives from government. This is a false definition of law and rights. It simply assumes that all rights are just privileges given to us by a government, that rights come from governments. This is a profoundly anti-liberty notion in its implications.

The adherants of natural law cannot disagree more strongly with the positivist. To use a classic phrase, "liberty is the mother, not the daughter, of order". Rights precede governments. Laws precede governments. Civilization precedes government. Property precedes government. Government did not invent property. Government did not invent liberty. Governments do not legislate rights into existance. At best, all a government can do is recognize a pre-existing right. To presume that it's all the literal creation of government yields to the notion of omnipotence, it merely regaurds the government as a god.

The positivist is wrong in assuming that there is no such thing as non-governmental law. Not only is there a long history of privately produced law, but we live in a world in which there already are plenty of forms of non-governmental law all around us. The positivist assumes, without any logical explaination as to why, that the only type of law is monocentric law. They ignore the existance of polycentric law at their own peril. At best, all they can do is fall back on some kind of hobbesianism to try to justify the status quo. On the other hand, only a natural law and natural rights position can genuinely hold the status quo up to an independant yardstick.

It is precisely the positivist conception of law and rights that has allowed tyranny to be excused in this world. It is precisely the positive line of reasoning that tyrants use to justify their actions. And it is precisely the positivist conception of rights that allows those same alleged "grantors" of rights to remove their protection. Positivism can only provide blind sanction to whatever the state does when taken to its consistant conclusion. The positivist must rationalize the irrational with the saying, "its the law, so it must be followed". This rules out any notion of civil disobedience and justice vs. injustice.

It should be quite obvious as to why rights, liberty, property and law precedes government. People freely acting is something that happens anyways, regaurdless of wether or not there is a government. Even the most totalitarian government is not capable of enforcing the total illegalization of liberty. Even the strongest prohibition cannot eliminate a good or services use entirely. Property is something that naturally arose out of homesteading and voluntary exchange; and the formation of a government requires pre-existing property, particularly the property of those funding it, those providing the property necessary to its creation and maintenance. And law is simply the enterprise of subjecting human conduct to the governance of rules. Law could be something as simple as a household rule, or a complex network of private contracting.

If law and rights are defined as whatever those in the government arbitrarily decide they are, which is essentially what legal positivism does, then one cannot claim to have any rational basis for asserting any rights at all and therefore may as well be entirely complacent to the existing regime. Since everything is allegedly entirely subjective and arbitrary, then this whole political science and economics thing is a gigantic waste of time, and everyone should just stop trying to learn about and solve social and economic problems. On the other hand, if there is an actual basis for law and rights that can be derived through reason from objective facts about human nature, then we should continue the process of learning exactly what that is and what it entails.

One finds endless examples of how the presumption that there is no law other than positive state law is false. Private law and customary law existed in various forms in pre-state societies. Even in the most primitive of societies, there were rules that were derived so that the people could conduct their affairs in a more conductive or productive manner. One finds that much of what is considered the "common law" in the west originally derived from pre-existing private law, such as the law merchant of the middle ages. There is no reason to believe that it is impossible for a private contract or voluntarily agreed upon rule to constitute a law.

The critics of natural law tend to denigrate human reason, while mysteriously not applying this denigration to those who make up the government. Afterall, if the idea is that man is so evil and flawed that he cannot be trusted, then why shouldn't this apply to the government? Some assert that natural law is just a cover for religion, that it is inherently a religious concept meant to impose social conventions onto others. But this is an ignorant interpretation of natural law. It has been understood in an entirely secular context for a long time. Some critics essentially espouse the doctrine of moral relativism. But if everything is as relative as they make it out to be, then there can be no such thing as law or rights at all.

What is so crazy about the idea that ethics, rights and law can be formed objectively on the basis of human reason? What is so crazy about the idea that law can and does exist and form in a non-governmental context? What is so crazy about the idea that there can be a scientific ethics? What is so crazy about the idea that law and rights should be judged on the basis of logic just like anything else? The alternative is nothing but ad hoc authoritarianism.

Determinism, New Age and Free Will (Elaboration)

In philosophy, there has been endless debate about the topic of free will and choice. I'd say that there are three general schools of thought on the question.

Hardcore determinists deny that free will and choice exists, as they effectively think that history is entirely pre-determined as if there is only one possible future (and therefore only one possible choice for a human being to make) at all times. In effect, a determinist believes that we are all sock puppets. If they're religious, we're all just sock puppets for a diety. If they're secular, we're all just sock puppets for the laws of nature. In either case, it implies that there is no such thing as personal responsibility. That's determinism in a nutshell (although there are "compatibalist" determinists who claim that free will is compatible with determinism; but this is an illogical position, because determinism inherently implies that every action someone engages in could not have been done/chosen in any other way).

Hardcore new age people believe not in free will so much as the idea that the entire world is nothing but a tabula rasa. Unlike the determinist, who believes that the physical world around us pre-determines all human choice, the radical new ager believes that our minds and thoughts dictates and pre-determines the physical world. In effect, a new ager believes either that everyone is eachother's sock puppet, or that the world or universe is completely determined by our conciousnesses (which often leads to the notion that "life is just an illusion"). This makes them get caught up in irrationalism and primitivism.

Free will is a self-evident observation that comes from our experience of making choices, experiencing their consequences, and modifying our behavior in reaction to those consequences. Free will involves internal deliberation, the consideration of alternative goals and alternative means of achieving goals. It implies that is more than one possible end, and more than one possible means to that end, and that humans are capable, through the admitedly imperfect use of their rationality, to choose among these means and place their desires in an order of preferances. It arises from our nature as human beings. And it is a fallacy to assume that free will is necessary a religious notion; it is a philosophical notion that has been used in a secular context for a long time. The free will proponent does not believe in sock puppets.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Doctrine of Expediency

The Doctrine of Expediency
by Herbert Spencer

[Exerpted from the Introduction to "Social Statics" by Herbert Spencer, originally written in 1851.]

"GIVE us a guide," cry men to the philosopher. "We would escape from these miseries in which we are entangled. A better state is ever present to our imaginations, and we yearn after it; but all our efforts to realize it are fruitless. We are weary of perpetual failures; tell us by what rule we may attain our desire."

"Whatever is expedient is right;" is one of the last of the many replies to this appeal.

"True," rejoin some of the applicants. "With the Deity right and expedient are doubtless convertible terms. For us, however, there remains the question—which is the antecedent, and which is the consequent? Granting your assumption that right is the unknown quantity and expediency the known one, your formula may be serviceable. But we deny your premises; a painful experience has proved the two to be equally indeterminate. Nay, we begin to suspect that the right is the more easily ascertained of the two; and that your maxim would be better if transposed into—whatever is right is expedient."

"Let your rule be, the greatest happiness to the greatest number," interposes another authority."

"That, like the other, is no rule at all," it is replied; "but rather an enunciation of the problem to be solved. It is your 'greatest happiness' of which we have been so long and so fruitlessly in search; albeit we never gave it a name. You tell us nothing new; you merely give words to our want. What you call an answer, is simply our own question turned the right side up. If this is your philosophy it is surely empty, for it merely echoes the interrogation."

"Have a little patience," returns the moralist, "and I will give you my opinion as to the mode of securing this greatest happiness to the greatest number."

"There again," exclaim the objectors, "you mistake our requirement. We want something else than opinions. We have had enough of them. Every futile scheme for the general good has been based on opinion; and we have no guarantee that your plan will not add one to the list of failures. Have you discovered a means of forming an infallible judgment? If not, you are, for aught we can perceive, as much in the dark as ourselves. True, you have obtained a clearer view of the end to be arrived at; but concerning the route leading to it, your offer of an opinion proves that you know nothing more certain than we do. We demur to your maxim because it is not what we wanted—a guide; because it dictates no sure mode of securing the desideratum; because it puts no veto upon a mistaken policy; because it permits all actions—bad, as readily as good—provided only the actors believe them conducive to the prescribed end. Your doctrines of 'expediency' or 'utility' or 'general good' or 'greatest happiness to the greatest number' afford not a solitary command of a practical character. Let but rulers think, or profess to think, that their measures will benefit the community, and your philosophy stands mute in the presence of the most egregious folly, or the blackest misconduct. This will not do for us. We seek a system that can return a definite answer when we ask—'Is this act good?' and not like yours, reply—'Yes, if it will benefit you.' If you can show us such an one—if you can give us an axiom from which we may develope successive propositions until we have with mathematical certainty solved all our difficulties—we will thank you. If not, we must go elsewhere."

In his defence, our philosopher submits that such expectations are unreasonable. He doubts the possibility of a strictly scientific morality. Moreover he maintains that his system is sufficient for all practical purposes. He has definitely pointed out the goal to be attained. He has surveyed the tract lying between us and it. He believes he has discovered the best route. And finally he has volunteered as pioneer. Having done this, he claims to have performed all that can be expected of him, and deprecates the opposition of these critics as factious, and their objections as frivolous. Let us examine this position somewhat more closely.

§ 2.

Assuming it to be in other respects satisfactory, a rule, principle, or axiom, is valuable only in so far as the words in which it is expressed have a definite meaning. The terms used must be universally accepted in the same sense, otherwise the proposition will be liable to such various constructions, as to lose all claim to the title—a rule. We must therefore take it for granted that when he announced "the greatest happiness to the greatest number" as the canon of social morality, its originator supposed mankind to be unanimous in their definition of "greatest happiness."

This was a most unfortunate assumption, for no fact is more palpable than that the standard of happiness is infinitely variable. In all ages—amongst every people—by each class—do we find different notions of it entertained. To the wandering gipsy a home is tiresome; whilst a Swiss is miserable without one. Progress is necessary to the well-being of the Anglo-Saxons; on the other hand the Esquimaux are content in their squalid poverty, have no latent wants, and are still what they were in the days of Tacitus. An Irishman delights in a row; a Chinese in pageantry and ceremonies; and the usually apathetic Javan gets vociferously enthusiastic over a cock-fight. The heaven of the Hebrew is "a city of gold and precious stones, with a supernatural abundance of corn and wine;" that of the Turk—a harem peopled by houris; that of the American Indian—a "happy hunting ground;" in the Norse paradise there were to be daily battles with magical healing of wounds; whilst the Australian hopes that after death he shall "jump up a white fellow, and have plenty of sixpences." Descending to individual instances, we find Louis XVI. interpreting "greatest happiness" to mean—making locks; instead of which his successor read—making empires. It was seemingly the opinion of Lycurgus that perfect physical development was the chief essential to human felicity; Plotinus, on the contrary, was so purely ideal in his aspirations as to be ashamed of his body. Indeed the many contradictory answers given by Grecian thinkers to the question—What constitutes happiness? have given occasion to comparisons that have now become trite. Nor has greater unanimity been shown amongst ourselves. To a miserly Elwes the hoarding of money was the only enjoyment of life; but Day, the philanthropic author of "Sandford and Merton," could find no pleasurable employment save in its distribution. Rural quietude, books, and a friend, are the wants of the poet; a tuft-hunter longs rather for a large circle of titled acquaintance, a box at the Opera, and the freedom of Almack's. The ambitions of the tradesman and the artist are anything but alike; and could we compare the air castles of the ploughman and the philosopher, we should find them of widely-different orders of architecture.

Generalizing such facts, we see that the standard of "greatest happiness" possesses as little fixity as the other exponents of human nature. Between nations the differences of opinion are conspicuous enough. On contrasting the Hebrew patriarchs with their existing descendants, we observe that even in the same race the beau ideal of existence changes. The members of each community disagree upon the question. Neither, if we compare the wishes of the gluttonous school-boy with those of the earth-scorning transcendentalist into whom he may afterwards grow, do we find any constancy in the individual. So we may say, not only that every epoch and every people has its peculiar conceptions of happiness, but that no two men have like conceptions; and further, that in each man the conception is not the same at any two periods of life.

The rationale of this is simple enough. Happiness signifies a gratified state of all the faculties. The gratification of a faculty is produced by its exercise. To be agreeable that exercise must be proportionate to the power of the faculty; if it is insufficient discontent arises, and its excess produces weariness. Hence, to have complete felicity is to have all the faculties exerted in the ratio of their several developments; and an ideal arrangement of circumstances calculated to secure this constitutes the standard of "greatest happiness;" but the minds of no two individuals contain the same combination of elements. Duplicate men are not to be found. There is in each a different balance of desires. Therefore the conditions adapted for the highest enjoyment of one, would not perfectly compass the same end for any other. And consequently the notion of happiness must vary with the disposition and character; that is, must vary indefinitely.

Whereby we are also led to the inevitable conclusion that a true conception of what human life should be, is possible only to the ideal man. We may make approximate estimates, but he only in whom the component feelings exist in their normal proportions is capable of a perfect aspiration. And as the world yet contains none such, it follows that a specific idea of "greatest happiness" is for the present unattainable. It is not then to be wondered at, if Paleys and Benthams make vain attempts at a definition. The question involves one of those mysteries which men are ever trying to penetrate and ever failing. It is the insoluble riddle which Care, Sphinx-like, puts to each new comer, and in default of answer devours him. And as yet there is no Œdipus, nor any sign of one.

The allegation that these are hypercritical objections, and that for all practical purposes we agree sufficiently well as to what "greatest happiness" means, will possibly be made by some. It were easy to disprove this, but it is unnecessary, for there are plenty of questions practical enough to satisfy such cavillers, and about which men exhibit none of this pretended unanimity. For example:

— What is the ratio between the mental and bodily enjoyments constituting this "greatest happiness"? There is a point up to which increase of mental activity produces increase of happiness; but beyond which, it produces in the end more pain than pleasure. Where is that point? Some appear to think that intellectual culture and the gratifications deriveable from it can hardly be carried too far. Others again maintain that already amongst the educated classes mental excitements are taken in excess; and that were more time given to a proper fulfilment of the animal functions, a larger amount of enjoyment would be obtained. If "greatest happiness" is to be the rule, it becomes needful to decide which of these opinions is correct; and further to determine the exact boundary between the use and abuse of every faculty.

— Which is most truly an element in the desired felicity, content or aspiration? The generality assume, as a matter of course, that content is. They think it the chief essential to well-being. There are others, however, who hold that but for discontent we should have been still savages. It is in their eyes the greatest incentive to progress. Nay, they maintain that were content the order of the day, society would even now begin to decay. It is required to reconcile these contradictory theories.

— And this synonyme for "greatest happiness"—this "utility"—what shall be comprised under it? The million would confine it to the things which directly or indirectly minister to the bodily wants, and in the words of the adage "help to get something to put in the pot." Others there are who think mental improvement useful in itself, irrespective of so-called practical results, and would therefore teach astronomy, comparative anatomy, ethnology, and the like, together with logic and metaphysics. Unlike some of the Roman writers who held the practice of the fine arts to be absolutely vicious, there are now many who suppose utility to comprehend poetry, painting, sculpture, the decorative arts, and whatever aids the refinement of the taste. Whilst an extreme party maintains that music, dancing, the drama, and what are commonly called amusements, are equally worthy to be included. In place of all which discordance we ought to have agreement.

— Whether shall we adopt the theory of some that felicity means the greatest possible enjoyment of this life's pleasures, or that of others, that it consists in anticipating the pleasures of a life to come? And if we compromise the matter, and say it should combine both, how much of each shall go to its composition?

— Or what must we think of this wealth-seeking age of ours? Shall we consider the total absorption of time and energy in business—the servitude of the mind to the needs of the body—the spending of life in the accumulation of the means to live, as constituting "greatest happiness," and act accordingly? Or shall we legislate upon the assumption that this is to be regarded as the voracity of a larva assimilating material for the development of the future psyche?Similar unsettled questions might be indefinitely multiplied. Not only therefore is an agreement as to the meaning of "greatest happiness" theoretically impossible, but it is also manifest, that men are at issue upon all topics, which for their determination require defined notions of it.So that in directing us to this "greatest happiness to the greatest number," as the object towards which we should steer, our pilot "keeps the word of promise to our ear and breaks it to our hope." What he shows us through his telescope is a fata morgana, and not the promised land. The real haven of our hopes dips far down below the horizon and has yet been seen by none. It is beyond the ken of seer be he never so farsighted. Faith not sight must be our guide. We cannot do without a compass.

§ 3.Even were the fundamental proposition of the expediency system not thus vitiated by the indefiniteness of its terms, it would still be vulnerable. Granting for the sake of argument, that the desideratum, "greatest happiness," is duly comprehended, its identity and nature agreed upon by all, and the direction in which it lies satisfactorily settled, there yet remains the unwarranted assumption that it is possible for the self-guided human judgment to determine, with something like precision, by what methods it may be achieved. Experience daily proves that just the same uncertainty which exists respecting the specific ends to be obtained, exists likewise respecting the right mode of attaining them when supposed to be known. In their attempts to compass one after another the several items which go to make up the grand total, "greatest happiness," men have been anything but successful; their most promising measures having commonly turned out the greatest failures. Let us look at a few cases.

When it was enacted in Bavaria that no marriage should be allowed between parties without capital, unless certain authorities could "see a reasonable prospect of the parties being able to provide for their children," it was doubtless intended to advance the public weal by checking improvident unions, and redundant population; a purpose most politicians will consider praiseworthy, and a provision which many will think well adapted to secure it. Nevertheless this apparently sagacious measure has by no means answered its end; the fact being that in Munich, the capital of the kingdom, half the births are illegitimate!

Those too were admirable motives, and very cogent reasons, which led our government to establish an armed force on the coast of Africa for the suppression of the slave trade. What could be more essential to the "greatest happiness" than the annihilation of the abominable traffic? And how could forty ships of war, supported by an expenditure of £700,000 a year, fail to wholly or partially accomplish this? The results have, however, been anything but satisfactory. When the abolitionists of England advocated it, they little thought that such a measure instead of preventing would only "aggravate the horrors, without sensibly mitigating the extent of the traffic;" that it would generate fast-sailing slavers with decks one foot six inches apart, suffocation from close packing, miserable diseases, and a mortality of thirty-five per cent. They dreamed not that when hard pressed a slaver might throw a whole cargo of 500 negroes into the sea; nor that on a blockaded coast the disappointed chiefs would, as at Gallinas, put to death 200 men and women, and stick their heads on poles, along shore, in sight of the squadron1. In short, they never anticipated having to plead as they now do for the abandonment of coercion.

Again, how great and how self-evident to the artisan mind, were the promised advantages of that trades-union project, whereby master manufacturers were to be dispensed with! If a body of workmen formed themselves into a joint-stock manufacturing company, with elective directors, secretary, treasurer, superintendents, foremen, &c., for managing the concern, and an organization adapted to ensure an equitable division of profits amongst the members, it was clear that the enormous sums previously pocketed by the employers, would be shared amongst the employed to the great increase of their prosperity. Yet all past attempts to act out this very plausible theory have, somehow or other, ended in miserable failures.

Another illustration is afforded by the fate which befel that kindred plan recommended by Mr. Babbage in his "Economy of Manufactures," as likely to be to the benefit of the workmen and to the interest of the master; that namely, in which factory hands were to "unite together, and have an agent to purchase by wholesale those articles which are most in demand; as tea, sugar, bacon, &c., and to retail them at prices which will just repay the wholesale cost, together with the expenses of the agent who conducts their sale." After fourteen years' trial a concern, established in pursuance of this idea, was "abandoned with the joint consent of all parties;" Mr. Babbage confessing that the opinion he had expressed "on the advantage of such societies was very much modified," and illustrating by a series of curves "the quick rise and gradual decline" of the experimental association.

The Spitalfields weavers afford us another case in point. No doubt the temptation which led them to obtain the Act of 1773, fixing a minimum of wages, was a strong one; and the anticipations of greater comfort to be secured by its enforcement must have seemed reasonable enough to all. Unfortunately, however, the weavers did not consider the consequences of being interdicted from working at reduced rates; and little expected that before 1793, some 4000 looms would be brought to a stand in consequence of the trade going elsewhere.

To mitigate distress appearing needful for the production of the "greatest happiness," the English people have sanctioned upwards of one hundred acts in Parliament having this end in view, each of them arising out of the failure or incompleteness of previous legislation. Men are nevertheless still discontented with the Poor Laws, and we are seemingly as far as ever from their satisfactory settlement.

But why cite individual cases? Does not the experience of all nations testify to the futility of these empirical attempts at the acquisition of happiness? What is the statute-book but a record of such unhappy guesses? or history but a narrative of their unsuccessful issues? And what forwarder are we now? Is not our government as busy still as though the work of law-making commenced but yesterday? Has it made any apparent progress toward a final settlement of social arrangements? Does it not rather each year entangle itself still further in the web of legislation, confounding the already heterogeneous mass of enactments into still greater confusion? Nearly every parliamentary proceeding is a tacit confession of incompetency. There is scarcely a bill introduced but is entitled "An Act to amend an Act." The "Whereas" of almost every preamble heralds an account of the miscarriage of previous legislation. Alteration, explanation, and repeal, form the staple employment of every session. All our great agitations are for the abolition of institutions purporting to be for the public good. Witness those for the removal of the Test and Corporation Acts, for Catholic Emancipation, for the repeal of the Corn Laws; to which may now be added, that for the separation of Church and State. The history of one scheme is the history of all. First comes enactment, then probation, then failure; next an amendment and another failure; and, after many alternate tinkerings and abortive trials, arrives at length repeal, followed by the substitution of some fresh plan, doomed to run the same course, and share a like fate.

The expediency-philosophy, however, ignores this world full of facts. Though men have so constantly been balked in their attempts to secure, by legislation, any desired constituent of that complex whole, "greatest happiness," it nevertheless continues to place confidence in the unaided judgment of the statesman. It asks no guide; it possesses no eclectic principle; it seeks no clue whereby the tangled web of social existence may be unravelled and its laws discovered. But, holding up to view the great desideratum, it assumes that after an inspection of the aggregate phenomena of national life, governments are qualified to concoct such measures as shall be "expedient." It considers the philosophy of humanity so easy, the constitution of the social organism so simple, the causes of a people's conduct so obvious, that a general examination can give to "collective wisdom," the insight requisite for law-making. It thinks that man's intellect is competent, first, to observe accurately the facts exhibited by associated human nature; to form just estimates of general and individual character, of the effects of religions, customs, superstitions, prejudices, of the mental tendencies of the age, of the probabilities of future events, &c., &c.; and then, grasping at once the multiplied phenomena of this ever-agitated, ever-changing sea of life, to derive from them that knowledge of their governing principles which shall enable him to say whether such and such measures will conduce to "the greatest happiness of the greatest number."

If without any previous investigation of the properties of terrestrial matter, Newton had proceeded at once to study the dynamics of the universe, and after years spent with the telescope in ascertaining the distances, sizes, times of revolution, inclinations of axes, forms of orbits, perturbations, &c., of the celestial bodies, had set himself to tabulate this accumulated mass of observations, and to educe from them the fundamental laws of planetary and stellar equilibrium, he might have cogitated to all eternity without arriving at a result.

But absurd as such a method of research would have been, it would have been far less absurd, than is the attempt to find out the principles of public polity, by a direct examination of that wonderfully intricate combination—society. It needs excite no surprise when legislation, based upon the theories thus elaborated, fails. Rather would its success afford matter for extreme astonishment. Considering that men as yet so imperfectly understand man—the instrument by which, and the material on which, laws are to act—and that a complete knowledge of the unit—man, is but a first step to the comprehension of the mass—society, it seems obvious enough that to educe from the infinitely-ramified complications of universal humanity, a true philosophy of national life, and to found thereon a code of rules for the obtainment of "greatest happiness" is a task far beyond the ability of any finite mind.

§ 4.

Yet another fatal objection to the expediency-philosophy, is to be found in the fact, that it implies the eternity of government. It is a mistake to assume that government must necessarily last for ever. The institution marks a certain stage of civilization—is natural to a particular phase of human development. It is not essential but incidental. As amongst the Bushmen we find a state antecedent to government; so may there be one in which it shall have become extinct. Already has it lost something of its importance. The time was when the history of a people was but the history of its government. It is otherwise now. The once universal despotism was but a manifestation of the extreme necessity of restraint. Feudalism, serfdom, slavery—all tyrannical institutions, are merely the most vigorous kinds of rule, springing out of, and necessary to, a bad state of man. The progress from these is in all cases the same—less government. Constitutional forms mean this. Political freedom means this. Democracy means this. In societies, associations, joint-stock companies, we have new agencies occupying fields filled in less advanced times and countries by the State. With us the legislature is dwarfed by newer and greater powers—is no longer master but slave. "Pressure from without" has come to be acknowledged as ultimate ruler. The triumph of the Anti-Corn-Law League is simply the most marked instance yet, of the new style of government—that of opinion, overcoming the old style—that of force. It bids fair to become a trite remark that the lawmaker is but the servant of the thinker. Daily is statecraft held in less repute. Even the Times can see that "the social changes thickening around us establish a truth sufficiently humiliating to legislative bodies," and that "the great stages of our progress are determined rather by the spontaneous workings of society, connected as they are with the progress of art and science, the operations of nature, and other such unpolitical causes, than by the proposition of a bill, the passing of an act, or any other event of politics or of state."2 Thus, as civilization advances, does government decay. To the bad it is essential; to the good, not. It is the check which national wickedness makes to itself and exists only to the same degree. Its continuance is proof of still-existing barbarism. What a cage is to the wild beast, law is to the selfish man. Restraint is for the savage, the rapacious, the violent; not for the just, the gentle, the benevolent. All necessity for external force implies a morbid state. Dungeons for the felon; a strait-jacket for the maniac; crutches for the lame; stays for the weak-backed; for the infirm of purpose a master; for the foolish a guide; but for the sound mind, in a sound body, none of these. Were there no thieves and murderers, prisons would be unnecessary. It is only because tyranny is yet rife in the world that we have armies. Barristers, judges, juries—all the instruments of law—exist, simply because knavery exists. Magisterial force is the sequence of social vice; and the policeman is but the complement of the criminal. Therefore it is that we call government "a necessary evil."

What then must be thought of a morality which chooses this probationary institution for its basis, builds a vast fabric of conclusions upon its assumed permanence, selects acts of parliament for its materials, and employs the statesman for its architect? The expediency-philosophy does this. It takes government into partnership—assigns to it entire control of its affairs—enjoins all to defer to its judgment—makes it in short the vital principle, the very soul of its system. When Paley teaches that "the interest of the whole society is binding upon every part of it," he implies the existence of some supreme power by which that "interest of the whole society" is to be determined. And elsewhere he more explicitly tells us, that for the attainment of a national advantage the private will of the subject is to give way; and that "the proof of this advantage lies with the legislature." Still more decisive is Bentham, when he says that "the happiness of the individuals of whom a community is composed, that is, their pleasures and their security, is the sole end which the legislator ought to have in view; the sole standard in conformity with which each individual ought, as far as depends upon the legislature, to be made to fashion his behaviour." These positions, be it remembered, are not voluntarily assumed; they are necessitated by the premises. If, as its propounder tells us, "expediency" means the benefit of the mass, not of the individual—of the future as much as of the present, it presupposes some one to judge of what will most conduce to that benefit. Upon the "utility" of this or that measure, the views are so various as to render an umpire essential. Whether protective duties, or established religions, or capital punishments, or poor laws, do or do not minister to the "general good," are questions concerning which there is such difference of opinion, that were nothing to be done till all agreed upon them, we might stand still to the end of time. If each man carried out, independently of a state power, his own notions of what would best secure "the greatest happiness of the greatest number," society would quickly lapse into confusion. Clearly, therefore, a morality established upon a maxim of which the practical interpretation is questionable, involves the existence of some authority whose decision respecting it shall be final—that is, a legislature. And without that authority, such a morality must ever remain inoperative.

See here then the predicament. A system of moral philosophy professes to be a code of correct rules for the control of human beings—fitted for the regulation of the best, as well as the worst members of the race—applicable, if true, to the guidance of humanity in its highest conceivable perfection. Government, however, is an institution originating in man's imperfection; an institution confessedly begotten by necessity out of evil; one which might be dispensed with were the world peopled with the unselfish, the conscientious, the philanthropic; one, in short, inconsistent with this same "highest conceivable perfection." How, then, can that be a true system of morality which adopts government as one of its premises?

§ 5.

Of the expediency-philosophy it must therefore be said, in the first place, that it can make no claim to a scientific character, seeing that its fundamental proposition is not an axiom, but simply an enunciation of the problem to be solved.

Further, that even supposing its fundamental proposition were an axiom, it would still be inadmissible, because expressed in terms possessing no fixed acceptation.

Moreover, were the expediency theory otherwise satisfactory, it would be still useless; since it requires nothing less than omniscience to carry it into practice.

And, waiving all other objections, we are yet compelled to reject a system, which, at the same time that it tacitly lays claim to perfection, takes imperfection for its basis.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Determinism, New Age and Free Will

Determinism - the idea that we are all absolute sock puppets of either a god, or natural forces. If religious, it's known as pre-destination. If not religious, it is still the notion of pre-destination.

New Age - the idea that everyone is eachother's sock puppet, or that the world or universe is a sock puppet for our imaginations to control. "If we all hold hands and attune our minds, we can change the nature of reality itself".

Free Will - the idea that there are no sock puppets, other then when we put a sock on our hands and start talking to ourselves, which would constitute a chosen, not pre-determined, action.

I choose free will.

Trendy, Modern, Emergent Evangelicals Want To Bomb Darfur

by Bill Barnwell

Count me as a loud dissenter to one of the latest trendy causes of many younger Evangelicals: Darfur. I have no desire to push our already overstretched military to intervene and bomb foreign warring factions into peace, love, and happiness. Interesting how many of the same people who complain about our continued military presence in Iraq (and I join in their criticisms) want the UN or the US to start dropping bombs in Darfur to kill even more people in the name of humanitarianism.

Darfur is certainly a troubled region. You can read about this very unstable area of Sudan and its long and complicated background here. However, according to some younger "emergent church"-type Evangelicals and a coalition of other voices on the left and right, the situation isn’t really all that complex. We have the power to easily solve the crisis. What’s needed is "social justice," they say. Apparently the socially just thing to do is bomb Sudan, invade yet another country, and involve ourselves in yet another messy civil war. Alas, the facts are always a little more complicated than the humanitarian enthusiasts would have you believe.

So, while many progressive Evangelicals are calling for our exit in Iraq, they are also simultaneously calling for our entrance into Sudan. Their problem is not so much that bombs are falling; they are just are in disagreement with where the bombs are falling. Progressive Evangelicals will take issue with that statement and say they merely support sanctions and UN peacekeepers to start with, and then maybe the tanks and bombs. But if history is any judge, once we insert ourselves into a "UN peacekeeping mission," we seemingly never leave. A timetable is set and pushed back year after year. "Peacekeeping" also tends to be a prelude to "war-making." And as Richard Land (the Southern Baptist Convention’s head of their Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission) says, any peacekeeping mission will need the necessary "military teeth."

According to some of our anti-Iraq war, pro-peace Evangelicals, all we need to do is just give war a chance in Darfur. This turnaround is similar to the peacenik left-wingers who in '99 traded in their lava lamps, open-toed sandals and Grateful Dead CD’s for machines guns during their euphoria to bomb Serbia for "humanitarian" reasons. Of course, those laptop bombardiers weren't the ones actually going to war, just like the belligerent rightwing bloggers and radio personalities are not the ones serving in Iraq today.

Yet eight years later that region is still largely a mess and most the stated reasons for going into that war turned out to be exaggerations or untrue. We were told Milosevic was a "new Hitler" even though he was losing a province every couple of years and his country's economic and military strength was puny. Allegations of genocide were overstated and atrocities were revealed on both sides. There's certainly real atrocities going on in Darfur right now (and that are worse than existed in Kosovo), but I have no reason to believe that we are going to make the situation all better with tanks and bombs, and apparently neither do many of the aid workers actually on the ground over there.And what of all those millions of dollars raised by the "Save Darfur Coalition?" Well, according to this recent New York Times article, it's actually not getting to Darfur and not doing much if any relief. And what do relief workers think of this proposed UN military intervention being pushed for by various left-wing gunslingers and their hipster Evangelical buddies? They claim it will result in more carnage and more damage, not less.

Note that most people attracted to a particular cause think that war should be waged long before all other options are exhausted or facts on the table (See Iraq in the summer 2002–early 2003). Personally as a Christian, I really don't see the New Testament ethic pointing towards a promotion of military strife, certainly not before all the facts are in and all options exhausted.

For every Christian who plays some "gotcha" game with me by pointing to the various wars of ancient Israel, I ask them to actually look at what the New Testament has to say. Romans 13 grants the state the authority to punish its own transgressors, but I don't see this as giving blanket authority for waging undeclared do-gooder wars against other sovereign territories – wars that often cause more harm than good. And this is a disputed point, but some NT Greek scholars would contend that the "sword" being referenced in Romans 13 is a small defensive dagger. Whatever it is, its best application for today probably isn't Humvees and stealth bombers against foreigners and "collateral damage" (a.k.a. innocent civilians).

But I'm a realist, and I know war is not likely to go away anytime soon. As a practical matter, however, I don't see this one meeting a theological or constitutional smell test. Certainly not yet at least. If someone could actually make a convincing case that bombing the bad guys of Darfur would result in a net positive, even though it would probably inflict its own evils, I might entertain such utilitarian notions even though that kind of moral equivocating troubles me. But more likely you'd have a situation similar to what happened in Kosovo, an area most people today have long forgotten about which is still quite screwed up. Or you could have American ground soldiers get in the middle of a bloody and messy civil war. I think we're already in the middle of one too many of those as it is. There is also the unfortunate reality that even though America is big and strong, it is not able, nor should it try to correct all the wrongs in the world. And as we are now seeing, it doesn't always work to try and force people to resolve their differences and get along happily ever after, even when you try and force them with a government-paid-for gun. Also, whether we want to admit it or not, we are just too stretched economically and militarily to insert ourselves into a never-ending stream of global conflicts, even ones like Darfur that involve real human rights abuses.

Make no mistake, both the left and right love military force; they just love it for different reasons. Putting the humanitarian crusaders in charge would not necessarily reduce America’s involvement in foreign wars and entanglements. They too love to play the role of Globocop. Keep that in mind before you enlist in their brigades to hop aboard the Darfur bandwagon.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

On Immigration: Take Our Freedoms, Please!
by Jonathan David Morris

I’m glad immigration is in the news these days. I love when people start discussing immigration. No other topic does a better job of popping the veins in Bill O’Reilly’s forehead.

It’s amazing how rarely we frame this debate in terms of what it is. There are people in this country—and O’Reilly is one of them—who would close the border, line it with soldiers, and build a brick wall reaching all the way up to Heaven. These people invariably paint a picture of crazed lawbreaking aliens who come here to break laws and be crazed as if killing and raping Americans were what they were bred to do.

Unfortunately, crazed lawbreaking aliens aren’t what this issue is really about. If it was, I could see supporting a closed-border policy. But it isn’t. It’s about us.

You may be asking, “How do you figure?” Or maybe you’re thinking, “Darn right it’s about us. It’s about protecting the people who already live here.” Even in theory, this is nonsensical. Like closing our doors to an influx of foreigners could possibly save us from murder and rape?

To understand what’s at stake in immigration, you have to understand what immigration is. The only way to describe it is freedom—freedom to travel where one wants to travel; freedom to work where one wants to work.

Some people aren’t going to like this definition. That’s fine. You don’t have to. Just admit the description is true.

Immigration, in a sense, is the very stuff of freedom. If humans can’t go where they want to go, they aren’t entirely free.

America is [mostly] a nation of laws. America should be a nation of laws, and people who want to be Americans should respect the laws we’ve established. But the problem with immigration isn’t that immigrants are disrespecting our policies. It’s that our policies disrespect individual freedom. Laws that infringe upon liberty are difficult laws to respect.

The hysteria over “getting control” of our borders resembles a furor that has never worked for any people in any country ever. It didn’t work for the pure and innocent Germans who accepted restrictions on evil, greedy, go-where-they-please Jewish people. And it didn’t work for post-World-War-I Americans who accidentally banned the most useful crop in history under the guise of a devious Mexican weed called marihuana that was causing scary black men to get high and elope with fancy white girls.

Whenever a country salivates over the chance to hand in a freedom, that country is always, inevitably wrong. Restricting the rights of others to come here renders us a prison from sea to shining sea.

What America really needs isn’t more restrictive immigration policies, but less. Don’t make it harder for people to come here; make it easier. If you want to keep track of who lives here, punish rapists and killers, and stop folks from siphoning all our free services, open immigration is the surest way how.

Who knows? Stop forcing immigrants to immigrate under the radar and you may even encourage them to assimilate faster. This will finally do away with all those bilingual phone prompts we’ve all grown so sick of. And maybe if they speak English, you won’t feel so bad when hardworking foreigners come and take your job.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The internal contradictions of U.S. imperialism
by Justin Raimondo

When the history of the Iraq war is written, the question of who lost it and how it was lost will be paramount, yet the answer is clear enough even today. The seeds of defeat were sown long ago, and not just by the policymakers and authors of our present disastrous policy. The co-authors of defeat in Iraq are the politicians and the U.S. military, both of whom are constrained by the internal political dynamics of U.S. imperialism. The military deficiencies that some, like Sen. Harry Reid, have pointed to are not a matter of individual "incompetence" on the part of some generals: the inefficiencies are inherent in the system.

Via Matt Yglesias we hear the news that the U.S. is now ramping up the air strikes, a sure sign – according to William Lind – that we are losing and clueless:

"Nothing could testify more powerfully to the failure of U.S. efforts on the ground in Iraq than a ramp-up in airstrikes. Calling in air is the last, desperate, and usually futile action of an army that is losing. If anyone still wonders whether the 'surge' is working, the increase in air strikes offers a definitive answer: it isn't."

Civilian casualties are way up – but who cares? Not the Americans, who are so fixated on the internal politics of the war – the "battles" raging in Washington, D.C. – that they don't have either the time or the inclination to pay attention to the "metrics" coming out of Iraq.

Besides which, as Yglesias reminds us, the Pentagon doesn't bother keeping track of Iraqi casualties. In a war for hearts and minds, however, the civilian casualty rate is a big indicator of American (or insurgent) success: the higher the rate, the lower are the chances that the U.S. can pull it off. After all, we are aiming – presumably – to give the Iraqis the security within which they can resolve their intractable political situation and begin to stand up (so we can stand down), but the bureaucratic and political imperatives of the imperial system that is evolving – in Iraq and everywhere else the American footprint is large – override the strategic requirements of fighting a successful war, as this story makes all too clear:

"The Air Force feels left out of the counterinsurgency debate. What's particularly galling to some officials is that the role of air power was relegated to a five-page annex at the back of the new Army and Marine Corps counterinsurgency manual. Setting out to rectify that perceived shortcoming, the Air Force is drafting its own manual for irregular warfare, due out this summer. And officials are speaking out about air power's contribution to labor-intensive irregular warfare, seen as the domain of the U.S. military's ground pounders."

The war on the ground in Iraq must take a back seat to the ongoing war within the U.S. military between the "air power" boys and the "ground pounders." Everybody wants a piece of the action – except, of course, when it comes time to take responsibility for defeat, which is even now looming large in the Pentagon's nightmares.

One of the chief weaknesses of imperialism is that empires have their own internal dynamics, which don't always conform to the requirements of external military and diplomatic policy. The only hearts and minds the American military seems to care about are those in Washington: winning over the Iraqi people is incidental, because the incentives work the other way. The Air Force has to show it is part of the solution in Iraq, whether or not it can actually play a significant positive role on the battlefield, because that is the road to increased pull on the Hill and in the White House, which means more funding. Within the Empire are all these little empires, competing for tax dollars, prestige, and political primacy, and it is this civil war – always being fought, albeit at various levels of intensity – that is the ultimate undoing of the imperial order.

It doesn't matter that air power exacerbates the problem in Iraq, rather than solving it. It doesn't matter that we're alienating ordinary Iraqis, who often are the victims of U.S. air raids; all that matters is that the Air Force's rivalry with the Army (and the Navy) requires air strikes. What determines our "strategy" is a shifting concatenation of competing agencies and political factions that meet on the battlefield of congressional committees and the higher councils of U.S. policymakers. The outcome of this war – the intra-bureaucratic turf war – determines the strategy and conduct of the external war. And that is the road to certain defeat.

Rent by internal contradictions, the American Empire contains within it the seeds of its own destruction, and these are sown and nurtured by the sheer scope of it. I am reminded of an anecdote Rose Wilder Lane tells in her 1936 polemic Give Me Liberty: she had gone to Russia a convinced Communist and supporter of the October Revolution and was astonished to find that the "liberated" workers and peasants didn't share her enthusiasm for the proletarian state. She got into a debate with a Russian peasant, who appeared impervious to the lure of Leninism:

"I drew for him a picture of Great Russia, to its remotest corner enjoying the equality, the peace, and the justly divided prosperity of his village. He shook his head sadly. 'It is too big,' he said. 'Too big. At the top, it is too small. It will not work. In Moscow there are only men, and man is not God. A man has only a man's head, and one hundred heads together do not make one great big head. No. Only God can know Russia.'"

The American Empire is being undone by its bigness – no one can centrally plan such an enormous undertaking. The physical holdings of the Pentagon alone are so vast that they constitute a nation unto themselves, a huge empire as complex and far-flung as Great Russia then or now. The regime-changers in Washington are no better at planning the reconstruction of the Iraqi state than the central planners in the Kremlin were at building a modern industrial state out of a peasant-based economy.

The American Empire will end just as certainly and ignominiously as the Soviet Empire did – and, perhaps, even more rapidly, on account of the economic factors involved. It's true that our enormous wealth – i.e., the boundless productive capacity of capitalism – masks the true economic cost of war, to some degree. Yet, in the end, we may wind up being destroyed by the very market forces we are so intent on globalizing.

Empires cost money, and this one, as Garet Garrett wryly observed half a century ago, is unique in that "everything goes out and nothing comes in." The Romans exacted tribute from subject nations, seizing gold, slaves, and anything not nailed down. The American Imperium, on the other hand, is the Bizarro Empire, where U.S. taxpayers pay tribute to America's local satraps, such as Egypt and Israel – the two biggest recipients of our "foreign aid" program. We defend Japan and South Korea, allowing them to shelter under our military umbrella while they export finished goods to the American market – and lend us the money to build an empire of bases around the world.

As Ron Paul tirelessly points out, the American welfare-warfare state is built on the shifting sands of an economic pump-priming perpetual motion machine, i.e., government debt. We are selling our children into slavery and bankrupting the nation: this is the price of empire, at least in purely economic terms. The price in blood– ours, the Iraqis, and perhaps the Iranians and others in the not-too-distant future – is higher still. Whether the American people are prepared to pay it is a question that is currently torturing our elites: this is the real heart of the Iraq war issue in American politics, and both parties seem committed to persuading us that the price of empire is worth it. The Democrats propose to do it on the cheap. They solemnly vow to fight future wars of conquest "smartly," while the Republicans are more extravagant and daring, with a devil-may-care attitude about the expenditure of troops and treasure in pursuit of "global hegemony," as the neocons like to put it.

The rise and fall of the Bizarro Empire is going to be an object lesson in how greatness, and liberty along with it, is lost. The story promises to be Spenglerian in its tragic denouement yet oddly inspiring in that the old republic survived as long as it did – up until at least the fatal year 1917, when we were dragged into the Great War and the seeds of the next were planted. The beginning of the end was when America embarked on its long overseas crusade to make the world safe for democracy against the villain of the day. Twice the villains were Germans, and since then the Russians, the Iraqis, and now the "Islamofascists" have all had their turn.

Tomorrow it may well be the Russians again, and then there's always the Red Chinese, whom the Fates have entrusted with much of our debt – a weapon more deadly than any H-bomb.

America, having exhausted itself militarily, economically, and spiritually, will one day be found washed up on some foreign shore, a hapless Gulliver overrun by hordes of angry Lilliputians and bound by a thousand threads to their feuds. When the history of the American Empire is written, any fair and objective author will have to concur that it didn't have to turn out that way: if we choose the prerogatives of Empire over the ascetic ideals of our republican tradition, we go willingly to our doom.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Egoism vs. Self-interest? Benevolence vs. Altruism?

Is there a difference between self-interest and egosim? Is there a difference between benevolence and altruism? The question is often framed as egoism vs. altruism, but this may be a false dychotomy.

I think that there is a sharp distinction between egoism and self-interest. I understand self-interest in the Lockean and Spencerian sense that it spawns social cooperation; that it is in our self-interest to interact with others voluntarily. So self-interest is good, while absolute egoism is a denial of all morality really. Egoism, in the Max Stirner sense, is "I can do whatever I want to anyone". Self-interest is quite different from that. In "Social Statics", Herbert Spencer pointed out that we regaurd the rights of others in proportion to our regaurd for our own rights; I.E. our self-interest.

I also make a distinction between altruism and benevolence. I see benevolence as being genuine goodness to others that arises out of self-interest, while altruism is the complete denial of self-interest and an embrace of a philosophy of absolute self-sacrifice either to a "collective" (that's the way that the term "humanity" or "society" is typically used by altruists) or to an oligarchy (and it's always oligarchic in practise). In this sense I'm an adherant of Ayn Rand's ideas; however I don't think that she adequately explained the difference between self-interest and egoism. She gives the reader the impression that she's an absolute egoist.

I understand the meaning of charity as voluntary benevolence towards others that arises out of the self-interest of the giver. The person who gives actually values what they are giving to; they find virtue in the recipient person or cause. Altruism, on the other hand, cannot be considered charity at all, because it is a philosophy of absolute self-sacrfice, I.E. servitude to the altar of collectives. While charity and benevolence is voluntary and genuine empathy or sympathy, altruism is coercive and fake empathy or sympathy. It's an erroneous view of positive obligations.

I understand egoism as being a form of hedonism. The egoist does whatever they like to others irrespective of both their own self-interest and that of others. To the egoist, might makes right, while at the same time they may try to deny the existance of rights. There is only power and one-sided utility to the egoist. In a sense, an egoist is a radical existentialist. All that matters is the present moment. Future consequences becomes irrelevant, as do all externalities from the egoist themself. The egoist lacks an understanding of what actually is in their self-interest.

There is a big difference between Adam Smith's "invisible hand", by which people cooperate and interact with eachother in each of their own self-interest to produce more good than they could have isolated by themselves, and an egoistic scenario in which people isolate from eachother completely because they refuse to persue their self-interest in a way that coincides with that of others. If everyone was an egoist, the human race would die off rather quickly, because there would be no real social cooperation. Instead, there would be social isolation, in which everyone tries to generalize in doing absolutely everything completely by themselves.

Unfortunately, this type of picture, of the isolated egoist, is commonly associated with the term self-interest to many people. But it is an entirely different thing. The "rugged individualist" has been mischaracterized in the popular mind of being an egoist. There is a failure to understand that self-interested individuals are capable of acts of benevolence, and that various acts of morality are indeed in one's self-interest. There is a failure to understand that self-protection is a necessary consequence of self-interest in an imperfect world, where things can go wrong.

On the other hand, most people's conception of charity and benevolence is altruistic and collectivistic. They are willing to support what is blatantly not in people's self-interest in the name of egalitarianism. Charity is seen as a positive obligation to be forced onto everyone, where each person has a positive obligation to do certain things for everyone else, completely indiscriminately, even if it is radically against the self-interest of everyone. There is a failure to understand that true kindness, cooperation and productivity is voluntary, not coerced at the point of a gun.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Romanticism and Progressivism

Political philosophies often involve views of history. There are two general tendencies in how political philosophies regaurd history: romanticism, which is to be understood as a longing for and idolization of the past, and progressivism, which is to be understood as a longing for and idolization of change and progress into the future. The romanticist gladly proclaims that they favor "turning back the clock". The progressive gladly proclaims that history is an endless march towards future progress.

Both of these tendencies are manifested in various ways, and pop up simultaneously within many political philosophies. The marxist view of history, in which communism is proclaimed without proof as being an inevitable future stage of history, is an example of progressivism. On the other hand, progressivism of a quite different sort was espoused by Herbert Spencer, in which social evolution necessitates adaptation to man's environment through increased individual freedom in accordance with the laws of nature.

An example of romanticism would be rigid religious or cultural traditionalism, in which changes that have occured in recent times, such as the move towards secularism and cultural tolerance, are radically opposed while systems of the past are held up as the ideal. And romanticism has also been represented in American nationalism, in which the figures such as George Washington are idolized as if they were gods. To varying degrees, this is also true of every other nation that has ever existed in recorded history.

When understood in their proper context, romanticism and progressivism have lead to both erroneous and correct conclusions. Romanticism always faces the danger of becoming primitivism and ludditism, in which more simple, agrarian and tribal living of the past is considered the ideal. And progressivism always faces the danger of becoming unenthusiastic and desensitized to the present, or of becoming overly utopian by basing the allegedly "inevitable" future on false notions about human nature.

When a change is proposed that would undo something that was previously done, the staunch progressive suddenly becomes conservative, and the use of the term conservative here is meant to mean a defense of the status quo (the present). On the other hand, when a change is proposed that would do something that was not previously done, the staunch romanticist becomes conservative. When these drawbacks of both groups are combined, it can amount to two-punch defense of the status quo.

But there have also been some good tendencies in some progressive and romantic views. The wise progressive possesses the insight that it is possible to improve conditions through both social evolution and revolution. They are aware that there are some things that have not been tried yet, at least fully. The progressive has reason for optimism toward the future. Where the progressives erred was in the question of how to go about changing things and what to change to, and in exessive optimism.

The romantic possesses the insight that there are certain basic principles or laws which are necessary for order to flourish. They are aware that there is much to be learned from the thinkers and writters of the past, and that there are some things that will never go away. Where the romantic erred was in the inability to aknowledge the changes and extensions that have been made upon the basic principles and laws of the past, and in their exessive pessemism toward the future.

Some progressive forces have been beneficial to the condition of mankind. In particular, the classical liberal revolution of the 18th and 19th century was incredibly progressive in that people adopted new ways of thinking about politics and economics, and for the first time in history the liberty of the individual was increased considerably in comparison to beforehand. This newfound freedom was first felt in England and later spread to America and some of the other European countries. It is important to keep in mind that this change required the rolling back of the previous systems of monarchy, fuedalism and mercentalism.

During this period, the romanticist and conservative parties were the monarchists, mercentalists and many of the people in the privileged classes. The advent of classical liberalism did not completely abolish the system of monarchy or mercantalism. It did, however, reduce their scope and considerably damage their reputation among the public. Without the classical liberal revolution, slavery and hereditary monarchy would have never been phased out and constitutional republicanism would have never been implemented. But for the time being, the conservative forces had lost out.

During the 19th century, classical liberalism itself was going through changes and new ideologies started forming. The ideas of socialism and communism were being formulated, as were the ideas of anarchism. Capitalist economics was also advancing simultaneously. However, it did not take very long for communism and socialism to become conservative, in that they became reactionary ideologies to the classical liberal progress that was going on. The socialists began to consider the increases in economic freedom and capital accumulation that had gone on as something to abolish.

In this sense, the original communists and socialists wanted to "turn back the clock". They bitterly resisted the progressivism of the industrial revolution. On the other hand, they became convinced that communism is an inevitable future stage of history, and that socialism was the inevitable process by which society will be transfered into communism. In its earlier stages, socialism was linked to the anarchist movement. However, it started to split with the anarchist movement because it began to support the use of government, of political means, to achieve socialist ends. To a serious and consistant anarchist, this is akin to blasphemy.

In many ways the anarchist movement, particularly the individualist anarchist movement, was an extension on the ideas of the classical liberals. Both the classical liberals and individualist anarchists shared many of the exact same premises, but they drew two different conclusions from those premises. The classical liberals concluded that we need a strictly limited constitutional government, while the anarchists concluded that we need no government at all. The two groups were allies to some extent, but some of the classical liberals also became conservative with respect to their relationship to the anarchists. The anarchists posed the threat of further change to the limited governmentalists.

Throughout the 2nd half of the 19th century, the classical liberal movement itself started to dissolve and fragment. In America, the advent of the civil war intensified already existing cultural divisions and hostilities. Certain aspects of mercantalism and militarism were returning. The conservative forces were gaining hold again. A new type of "progressivism" was emerging which was, in part, a conservative reaction to the liberal revolution. This progressivism replaced liberalism with a rising network of privileges, the military-industrial alliance and the war economy. The spirit of the old liberalism was dead. Some major contributing factors to its death was (1) the merging of socialism with conservative forces (2) the move towards a philosophy of expediency and (3) the rise of public demand for special privileges.

At the beginning of the 20th century, banking was officially monopolized, centralized democracy was spreading around the world and WWI ushered in the era of total war and national confrontation. In every country, nationalism manifested itself to varying degrees. The overall political landscape was no longer divided between revolutionary/libertarian forces and conservative/reactionary forces. Everyone started becoming a reactionary to everyone else, splintering into an endless array of special interest groups. What little remnants of classical liberalism remained was was slowly soaked up into the Republican party mostly, and it remained there as only a small fragment in the early 20th century, peaking as a resistance movement to the new deal.

The American "progressive" movement of the early 20th century defined progress in terms of increased government powers over the economy to allegedly achieve benevolent and egalitarian ends, including the use of military force to "spread democracy around the world". It took a reactionary and hostile view towards the industrial revolution and capitalism in general. On the other hand, it could not be said to be an all-out communist movement. In its economic content, it was closer to fascism than communism. Whereas in communism the government is supposed to take control of the means of production, economic fascism is a system in which the government merges and colludes with private industry through patronage and protection.

In Europe, communism and fascism was on the rise during this time. One way to look at the relationship between these two systems is that communism is radical progressivism that uses government power to attempt to achieve its ends, while fascism is radical romanticism that uses government power to attempt to achieve its ends. The German fascists, otherwise know as the national socialists or nazis, idolized and romantisized anchient norse culture in a blatantly religious way. Communism went for another route: it co-opted religion altogether and turned the state itself into a god that is can be the instrument of endless "progress". Both communism and fascism stem from an extreme rejection of the ideas of classical liberalism, capitalism and anarchism, and they both represent totalitarian forms of government. Both grew out of socialism.

In America, neither pure communism or pure fascism was the system of the day. Interventionism (centrist statism) took hold. Elements of both left-wing socialism and right-wing socialism were combined throughout the early 20th century. But the scale was always tipped a bit more towards right-wing socialism in America, and this trend has only increased over the years. In terms of the common person's views, most Americans settled for softer variants of socialism, or some kind of centrism. When the stock market crashed, many of the people became convinced that it was the fault of capitalism, but the capitalist era had long been over for decades. In this new era, the long-term fruits of the capitalist era, the capital that it had accumulated and planted seeds for further accumulation, was to be tapped into by the government. In either case, the welfare state, or at least part of it, became the bi-partisan status quo in America during this period.

By the time WWII ended, America was the true superpower of the world. This was mostly because Europe and other parts of the world were in utter ruin from all the war and economic hegemony, while America didn't really get effected on its own soil. Another contributing reason for the great comparative prosperity that America had during the 1950's was because to an extent, the Eisenerhower administration, during the first term, rolled back the regulation that the war economy had brought about. But this did not last for very long. The war machine got charged back up in no time throughout the 2nd half of the 20th century. It has been growing at an alarming rate.

For a brief period in the 1960's and part of the 1970's, the American left-wing had an upsurge of a progressive anti-authoritarian spirit. This was particularly manifested in the rise of an anti-war movement among their ranks. However, this movement quickly devolved into an absurd form of romanticism in which primitive living is looked upon favorably. It was also co-opted by the socialist and communist movements. In spite of the good qualities of the new left, the establishment left has always been rather conservative, and have historically persued interventionist and militaristic foreign policies.

The American right-wing became co-opted by militarists and former new deal era democrats. What remained of the libertarian spirit within America's right-wing was essentially purged. While the cold war was initiated by Democrats, it quickly became taken over by conservative Republicans. The seats of quasi-libertarian Republicans became replaced by social conservatives and former Democrats. America's contemporary right-wing embraces a centralized government in order to carry out an active and aggressive foreign policy, extension of domestic police powers and government collusion with buisiness. Furthermore, America's contemporary left-wing embraces much of this same program, only with a somewhat different set of interests involved.

None of the mainstream political interest groups represent a genuine progressive and revolutionary spirit. Neither do they posses much of an appriciation of the advances that were made in the past. Leftists tend to view the advances of private commerence that have gone on negatively, and view the advance of government power with respect to the economy as the epitomy of progress. Rightists tend to view the advances of personal interrelations that have gone on negatively and view the advance of government power with respect to foreign policy as the epitome of progress.

Leftists tend to view a move towards more economic freedom as "turning back the clock". Rightists tend to view a move towards a less active foreign policy and more personal freedom as "turning back the clock". For both of them combined, actual progress is seen as a retrogression, while a retrogression back into authoritarian control of personal and economy activity, and warfare, is seen as progress. In typical Washington politics, the authoritarian side of their agendas are generally accepted while anything smacking of something truly new is generally rejected. This has the effect of hampering true progress. But there has also been a hampering of the people's appriciation for the progress of the past, as they have been kept largely ignorant of such things.

The political parties have represented little more than a shell game. They take advantage of people's fears of the future to exploit the romantic spirit. They take advantage of people's fears of the past to exploit the progressive spirit. The modern so-called left and right are like the ghosts of something that doesn't exist anymore. The deck of public opinion appears stacked in favor of power. The political climate does not consist of people who desire to use power vs. people who do not so much as people who each have different ends they want to use power to achieve. The political spectrum has realigned itself so many times and split into so many fragments that the conventional views of politics today are absurd.

Ron Paul in Kansas City

Polyarchy (Part III)

36. The crisis of statism

Towards the end of the 20th century, statism entered a terminal crisis from which there seems to be no way out. This is because the state itself, its very existence and permanence, has come to be The Problem, i.e. the very source of most problems. And so, as the solution of a problem consists in overcoming the problem itself by eliminating its source, so the solution to the crisis of statism consists in going beyond statism itself through the progressive extinction of the state. Too many hopes and beliefs about the state that too many people held dear for a long time are becoming too dear to hold anymore. Too dear in terms of moral corruption, material failure and sheer political idiocy. Let us examine the main points of the crisis. They involve at least three facets: - Moral crisis - Material crisis - Political crisis

37. Moral crisis

The most evident sign of the moral crisis of statism is its lack of any progressive values. Fake principles such as patriotism, race, military heroism and the like, having collapsed, they have been replaced by other fake messages condensed into catch phrases like 'public interest' and 'public welfare', convenient formulas used to cover up the hoarding and looting of resources by parasitic groups. Nothing better exemplifies the moral bankruptcy of statism than the total replacement of morality with legality. The functioning of society is seen as the controlled implementation of all sorts of regulations and restrictions imposed from above and not as the free interplay of human beings endowed with morality and rationality.

The result is that the states with more regulations and more policing are those with more disorder and social disease. As the drug addict sees in the continuous consumption of drugs the solution to his/her problems and does not want to acknowledge that this supposed solution is in reality the enlargement and deepening of the problem, so does happen with statism when it advocates more and more regulations and restrictions. A further indicator of moral crisis is the belief in the thaumaturgic power of money. Statism believes that money can solve every problem arising from any situation at any time and in any place.

The result has been the multiplication and intensification of moral problems, with the institution and insertion of powerful mafia groups and petty criminals as sub-sections of the state. Within the dominion of statism there seem to be no limits to legal madness (e.g. miscarriages of justice) and money squandering (e.g. misappropriation and misuse of financial resources), especially when sustained by strong parasitic interests masquerading as general public interest. In this respect, at least, capitalism offered a less hypocritical and more open picture of personal interests, advocating (rightly or wrongly) that they would eventually work for the public good.

More cunningly, statism deceptively portrays sectorial or egotistic interests as general public interests. But the main difference between the two is that while capitalism was a progressive and productive period of history, statism is a parasitic one and there is no way that parasitism could ever be in the general interest. Furthermore capitalism was provident in the use of resources while statism is profligate. And this fact leads straight to the second aspect: the material crisis.

38. Material crisis

Statism has found favour with the masses because, in periods of deep misery and uncertainty (war, strife, famine, unemployment, etc.), very often produced or provoked by the state itself, the same state has either provided some semblance of security (albeit fake and ephemeral) or the impression of being the only organization capable of restoring security. The main aspect of security provision has been the redistribution of material resources (goods) that entrepreneurs (risk takers), inventors (device makers) and workers (commodities producers) generated firstly through mechanization and later automazation.

The redistribution of resources has been the master stroke of statism but it could also play a large part in its undoing. In fact it has created bigger and bigger expectations on the part of a larger and larger number of people. It has multiplied parasitism and parasitic occupations to a level never attained in human memory. At the same time, it has given people fictitious reasons to believe that they are performing useful activities that are essential in a modern society or that they are playing roles sustainable in a progressive society.

Lawyers, accountants, notaries, civil servants, welfare recipients, etc., most of them are part of a magma made of a mixture of illusion in the present and likely disillusion in the future. They are, directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously, part of a massive bureaucracy or, in other words, a vast parasitocracy. To feed and sustain this parasitocracy, the states, all over the world, have accumulated huge debts that they will hand down as a legacy to future generations.

To keep the façade from falling down, the states are hurriedly selling assets previously grabbed and monopolised, desperately promoting gambling (lotteries and all sorts of money games) and are pushing as ever for consumerism, to keep the flow of tax revenues running. To every free and rational human being the state appears, more and more, as a tentacular racket based on extortion, corruption and fraud. It is a moral and material disaster. The bubble will burst when the perception of a moral and material crisis becomes more palpable and is compounded by a political crisis, the overdue discovery that the king is not only stark naked but flaccid and wretched.

39. Political crisis

The veil of fiction that shrouded and supported representative democracy has finally fallen. Representative parliamentary democracy should have been more appropriately called manipulative totalitarian statocracy, as the state has intervened to regulate (or tried to regulate) each and every aspect of people's lives, drinking habits and sexual practices of adult couples included. In any case, transformed or not, the electoral process no longer represents, if ever it did, the will of the majority, entrusted to honest and faithful delegates and translated by them into reality through appropriate and well-thought out measures.

In fact, even in the past, this idealtype portrait of representative democracy did not correspond to reality, as we had a majority of people electing an élite and, almost submissively, without much interference, accepting to be run by it. Now we have reached the point where a minority of the population elects and delegates everything to a micro élite. It makes the old belief that the electoral process is an expression of the will of the majority appear not just fictional but farcical. Faith in the polls has collapsed. The ballot box has become an empty box.

The crisis of political representation is a crisis of politics 'tout court', or of politics as it has operated throughout the period of statism, which is to say of parties, lobbies and pressure groups busily selling votes, putting on masks, setting up smoke screens, manufacturing lies, manipulating minds, again and again, ad nauseam. At present, there is such frustration and desperation with politics that whoever appears to be saying something new with a new tone of voice and a new posture attracts interest and followers, at least for a while. But the way out of this mess is not any longer (if it ever was) through preachers and followers of new Gospels. The way out consists, first of all, in a personal awakening to and awareness of a new reality and of the new seeds of potential empowerment it is nurturing and bringing to life.

40. The new reality

The new reality exposes, in many subtle but unequivocal ways, to all whose eyes are not blinded by a vested interest, the unremitting decay and obsolescence of the state. The state is on the retreat, everywhere, on all fronts. It has had to give up its role as producer/operator in nationalized industries amid mounting debts and incompetent management. As patronizing distributor of public resources, the state is heading towards disaster as the growth in resources does not match the increase in expectations and demands. As controller of the life of people the state is totally impotent except in culturally poor and technologically backward societies. Many tasks and powers that were the prerogatives of the national state have been taken away by international organizations or recaptured by regional communities.

The nation state is under pressure from above (globalism) and from below (localism) and is gradually being minced up by the concomitant action of these two powerful jaws. Certainly the state and its parasitic strata are not about to go gracefully, without putting up a fight. Revenues lost in one sector are balanced by a more stringent fiscalism in another sector (i.e. reducing direct taxation while increasing or even doubling indirect taxation). The right hand routinely recovers what the left has conceded or lost.

Reality is multi-faceted. For instance, as far as state control is concerned, the same year (1989) that saw the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of dictatorial states in eastern Europe, witnessed also the Tien-an-men massacre with the strengthening of Chinese state dominance. The same year saw also the coming on the scene of the World Wide Web, which sounded the death knell to any future attempt at the control and fixing of borders by the state. So, with ups and downs, this more and more useless and dangerous entity that the state has become is vainly struggling against the new seeds sown by the ingenuity and resiliency of human beings all over the globe. These new seeds are making the state superfluous and are hastening the moment when the state will wither away as a bygone remnant of past ages.

41. The new seeds

Even while statism was on the rise, new seeds were being sown that would lead, in the long run, to its demise. It is all to do, as often in history, with going beyond actual or artificial borders. Nowadays it is happening with a speed and to an extent that is quite remarkable. This going beyond borders concerns three main aspects that are drawing people together: - expressing (talking) : individuals are connected to and are communicating with the entire world more and more freely, easily, and cheaply than ever before - exploring (travelling) : individuals are moving all over the earth, navigating and criss-crossing it physically and virtually - exchanging (trading) : individuals are exchanging with the entire world not just material goods but also ideas and projects.

Through this universal expressing/exploring/exchanging, human beings and the communities of which they feel to be part are progressively becoming nationless and stateless as they grow more and more acquainted with the different cultures and familiar with the various localities and societies they go through, stop at, live in, trade with and so on and so forth. In fact, it is not the talking, travelling or trading in itself that is noteworthy or the simple fact that this is happening on an unparalleled scale, but what it could lead to and is already leading to in terms of a new conceptual and empirical paradigm.

42. The new paradigm

A new reality, following the coming to fruition of new seeds of opportunities, must be matched by the emergence of a new paradigm, that means a new, more appropriate way of seeing reality and seizing possibilities. This new paradigm conceives the world as made of small interconnected cooperating communities instead of big monolithic separate blocks (the nation states) in opposition to one another. It is based on the concepts of: - micro : through communication, space becomes smaller and time shorter; people can virtually be almost anywhere in space (ubiquity) in a fraction of time (instantaneousness).

Miniaturization of components and downsizing of instruments go hand in hand with increase in power and scope for each human being. Many individuals already have at their disposal tools that not even the rich and powerful possessed not so long ago. - poly : the empowerment offered by new small devices at incredibly reduced cost leads to a multiplication of decision centres, to a diffusion of knowledge and power that gives birth to a polyphony of voices, in a vast universal network on a worldwide scale. - continuum : this polyphonic universal reality can be seen as a continuous network of communities in which sounds (languages), colours (bodies), tastes (attitudes), etc. mingle and blend like on a spectrum of gradation and variety.

For this reason, the entities composing a networked world are not any longer to be seen as opposing dualities within distinct borders but as interconnected cooperating pluralities (rich entities) on a borderless continuum. In brief, the world is becoming a planetary polyphonic network of micro-societies, a continuous variety of hamlets inhabited by cosmopolitan individuals and communities, in touch with one another and in charge and care of their own reality.

43. The new requirements

The passage from big monolithic clashing blocks to a continuum of small polyphonic interconnected entities demands the fulfilling of some requirements and their continuous refinement. These requirements can be summed up as: - variety : as smallness feeds plurality so plurality feeds variety. The variety of situations and entities replaces uniformity and is accompanied by the need for versatility. - versatility : this means flexibility and adaptability in responding to a rich and various reality. It replaces rigidity and is accompanied by the need for velocity. - velocity : this is promptness of intervention, especially to avert a disaster or to avoid a nuisance and to solve a problematic situation without being hampered or blocked by irresponsible procrastination or meaningless procedures.

These requirements of variety/versatility/velocity are not and cannot be met by statism and its bureaucratic way of thinking and acting, based fundamentally on exactly opposite principles, that is to say: - uniformity instead of variety - rigidity instead of versatility - rituality instead of velocity The new requirements, emerging out of a new paradigm, demand and foster a new scenario.

44. The new scenario

An imbalance has become more and more visible towards the end of the 20th century. On the one side we witness the ever growing power of individuals to express, explore, exchange (talk/travel/trade) autonomously and universally whilst, on the other, they are still subjected to strains and strictures imposed by the state rulers and their bureaucracies. This cannot last. A new scenario is already beginning to appear.

This new scenario is based on and fosters: - dis-intermediation : direct access/action replaces filtering and delegation; - de-hierarchization : knowledge-rich doers/actors get direct access to the information and become decision-makers; - de-massification : personalization and customization advance as individuals and communities take the leading role instead of classes and masses; - de-concentration : diffusion (of people, ideas, utilities) becomes possible at no extra cost and without disadvantages or diseconomies; - de-centralization : there are no central nodes as the network becomes more important than any specific point; - de-compartmentalization : artificial borders recede and finally vanish; - de-monetization : national state currencies disappear and are replaced by electronic compensation units. All these aspects of the new scenario are part of a shift in power that has been going on subterraneously for quite a while. The result of this shift is Polyarchy.

45. Polyarchy

Polyarchy is the organization/diffusion of power in the age of universal electronic communication and ubiquitous cybernetic regulation. While capitalism was based on machinery (capital) and production and statism on employment (labour) and consumption, Polyarchy is based on activities in which human beings rich in knowledge and wisdom interact with artefacts endowed with data and information, promoting the freedom and well-being of individuals and communities.

Polyarchy, advocating liberalism (freedom) against dirigism (restriction of freedom), does not mean a return to capitalism, for many reasons, moral and historical, the simplest of these being the fact that some of the components that produced capitalism (e.g. mechanical devices) are no longer there. We have gone, in social and technological terms, far beyond capitalism as a mechanical physical world has given way to an electronic virtual one and the central place occupied once by capital (stock of machines) has been taken by ideational activities (flux of creative ideas).

As statism had replaced capitalism, so Polyarchy is replacing statism which was/is the organization/concentration of power proper to a world dominated by bigness and brutishness, run by a bureaucracy that impeded variety, abolished flexibility and quite often obscured rationality. Polyarchy is the organization proper to a cybernetic world of - nodes (individuals, communities) - nets (networks of communication, coordination, cooperation) - paths (plurality of means of connection and forms of expression). It is based on the empowerment of individuals and communities on a scale never before attained in human history.

While statism relied on the division of power between élites, in a centre, within the state, Polyarchy is based on the diffusion and multiplication of powers to individuals and communities, everywhere, without the state. In fact, Polyarchy, fostering the ever wider and deeper spread of technology (e.g. communication) and consciousness (e.g. participation), challenges the very idea of centre and periphery and certainly its crystallization.

Through the multiplication of centres, Polyarchy aims at overcoming two historical divisions: - the centre-periphery division (also known as the town-country division) : each community becoming an active node (a centre) in the network - the dominant-dependent division (also known as the manual-intellectual division) : each individual becoming a protagonist (a player) in the community and in the network. Whenever and wherever compulsory and crystallized divisions of this type survive in the future, this would point to the persistence of statism, even if disguised by new phraseology. Besides this focal point represented by the multiplication of centres, Polyarchy is based on specific - principles - protagonists - processes.

46. Principles

Polyarchy advocates the following basic principles : - autonomy : individuals and communities should be free to do everything that is not expressly declared as damaging another community or other individuals. This is in contrast with statism in general and the authoritarian state in particular where, through a proliferation of prohibitions, restrictions and impositions, we had reached the point where all that was not expressly allowed was forbidden. - equity : while equality could mean uniformity, equity aims at fairness amongst individuals, that is acting in a reasonable, equitable, honest way. - care : state welfare is replaced by individuals and communities caring for each other and propelling each other towards self-reliance instead of being pushed towards dependency.

Leaving aside exceptional cases, the roles of caring and cared for are not permanently confined to the same individuals, as is the rule under bureaucratic statism, but are interchangeably played by everyone. The putting into practice of these basic principles requires the proliferation and consolidation of new active protagonists as opposed to the many withdrawn and indifferent figures vegetating under statism.

47. Protagonists

Polyarchy is the result of and will result in - polyvalent cosmopolitan individuals - multi-cultural, multi-ethnic communities. These two protagonists give life to a dynamic reality made of networks of - cooperatives of production and distribution; - local (regional, sub-regional) civic bodies (agencies) to provide for basic services (e.g. maintenance of roads) and to implement basic regulations (e.g. food safety). The distinction between individuals and communities has nothing to do with the old ideological (i.e. fake) opposition between private and public that originated as the contrast between people deprived of access to state sinecures (i.e. the private person) and people granted them as state privileges (i.e. courtiers, sycophants, etc.).

Also the distinction between national (native, local) and foreigner (alien, stranger) loses any juridical relevance and becomes meaningless as everybody is free to move everywhere without any barriers being imposed by the states to impede/restrict their movement. In fact, with the extinction of the state and of its bureaucracy, these false distinctions and hostile oppositions disappear and are replaced by the interaction of individuals and communities on a network continuum : from a maturing individual to a fully developed individual, to many individuals, to a small community, to many communities, to a world community made by a world of communities. These rich and various interactions between protagonists (individuals, communities) animate the dynamic processes of Polyarchy.

48. Processes

Polyarchy is based on self-regulated, multi-regulated processes, at various interconnected levels. In contrast with statism, which relies essentially on top-down decision-making processes, Polyarchy is built on reticular flows (information, decision, action) in which there is no visible centre or acknowledged fixed top. The different hierarchical levels of bureaucratic statism have to be disposed of for the general principle of autonomy (self-rule) to be implemented.

This principle simply advocates that those affected by the regulation should also be those who affect the decision concerning the regulation. Furthermore, polyarchic entities, like biological organisms, react on a permanent basis and in real time to imbalances (by feed-back) and as thinking organisations, forecast and anticipate ways to solve problems (by feed-forward planning). Reality is so dynamic that the state static way of solving problems through post factum administrative or legislative measures that take ages to propose and produce (let alone to implement) appears more and more to belong to a past era.

Now, the sclerotic administrative paraphernalia of statism must give way to the cybernetic processes of Polyarchy. They consist in the development of autonomous nodes interconnected by reliable nets through fast and flexible paths, where the variety (of situations) is matched by versatility (of actions) coupled with velocity (of decisions). Polyarchy is the proper way for communicating/coordinating/cooperating in the age of the networked society, when inner moral principles replace once again outer imposed princes and principals and the human being is not any longer a cog in the machinery of the state, performing the same task time and time again, but the protagonist of a new inspiring play on the world scene and in world history.

49. Final considerations

The Zeitgeist of the 20th century has been the myth of the state, the protector, the dispenser, the 'alma mater' of the angst ridden masses. The angst has disappeared and the myth is falling apart. Only the state survives, by inertia. But still, an intense struggle is going to be fought between the state and human beings/communities advocating Polyarchy. State bureaucracy will keep trying, till the end, to strike and fight autonomy with all sorts of old ideological weapons, shouting their litany against individualism, 'private' interest, anarchy.

It is the same old game : to fabricate and spread hatred and fear; to promote and feed irresponsibility and foolishness. It will find the usual band of old cronies, the authoritarian communist, the self-deluded liberal, the fake anarchist, the angry trade-unionist, the nation loving patriot, all under respectable banners (anarchism, ecologism, internationalism, anti-authoritarianism). Under these disguises they will try to pass and impose the usual stinking bag of monopolism, protectionism, paternalism, in a word, state strangulation.

And, as usual, they will do this in the name of those they pretend to defend (the working class, the people in the developing countries, etc.) but whom they actually corrupt morally and oppress materially. Human beings and communities need to be/become conscious of this ideological trash in order to unmask what lies behind it, i. e. the arrogance, greed and abject parasitism of the state. We have to build our way out of the dead end triangle made by bureaucrats and politicians, degenerate and servile intellectuals, fake and corrupted welfare recipients.

We must put an end to parasitism and pillage and replace it with production and participation in the enjoyment of goods and services conducive to ever more widespread well-being. The nation state is decaying rapidly and we can already smell its incipient decomposition in the many cases of sleaze, corruption, misappropriation, injustice and violence that have been, and more and more are, part and parcel of the daily life of these huge parasitocracies. We must be careful about what replaces it because parasites have many tricks up their sleeves and they can invent many ways to keep people subordinate, morally, mentally and materially.

The master-slave, egoism-altruism dynamic, goes on forever. The pursuit of emancipation and liberation is a never ending strive. Even Polyarchy is not the definitive solution. It will be only a period in history. Globalism and localism might very well change their meaning, giving way to further dynamics. Probably the multiplication of centres will not be enough and there will be a move from Polyarchy to Panarchy, when every single individual and small community will aspire to become more and more a protagonist, a flourishing centre in its own right. History carries on until the end of time. Human Beings and Communities of the World, awake, associate and act.