Category Archives: Justice and the Law

The National Budget under Direct Democracy

 The so-called “power of the purse,” one among an enumerated few bestowed upon Congress in the Founders’ Constitution, has long since proven, to the surprise no doubt of fewer still, by far the most corrupting. Indeed this indispensable authority to appropriate tax revenue now represents the greatest threat to the future prospects of this nation. Naturally then it also constitutes one of the more challenging powers to tame and to integrate into the faithful service of a national system of direct democracy.

Currently many revenues raised and already appropriated by Congress may yet be blocked by a handful of powerful budget committee chairpersons  — according to whatever criteria might force or stay their hands. But neither these “gatekeepers,” nor even the committees over which they preside, were ever mentioned by the Founders in the Constitution: These were the innovations of subsequent Congresses.

In spite of — or perhaps owing to — these and other congressional innovations,  rare now are any full, year-round budgets appropriated and authorized by the various committees of Congress. Instead, many may pass but one continuing resolution after another in order to ensure the funding of the many agencies, departments and programs of the federal government.

And this proposed direct democracy, at least with respect to the federal budget, is itself a form of national continuing resolution.

All other departments, agencies, offices and courts of law not superseded or abrogated by this Constitution shall retain the same allotted percentage of public revenues, powers of regulation, oversight and enforcement, and restrictions under law as established prior to ratification, until a proposition alternative for reform of that government body or office, introduced by the People or by the principal officer of the government body or office in question, certified in at least ninety-five percent of precincts subject to its oversight and authority, receives an aggregate of fifty-one percent of votes among said precincts.

(from Article 1, Section 4)

As the priorities of the voting public naturally shift over time, this budgetary “frozen pie chart” might be altered in any national electoral initiative — altered perhaps concurrently with the election of a presidential candidate as a new form of electoral mandate akin to today’s party platform: Thus, with the election of a given candidate the defense segment of the budget, which now stands near 24% of the whole, might be reduced to the 22% health care is now allotted and vice versa.

If these important percentages stood unaltered longer than many might like, the actual revenues raised and spent, as ever, would depend upon existing fees and tax rates. The proposed constitution provides for its own major source of revenue akin to the abolished income tax. (see The Immoral Income Tax and Direct Democracy) A property usage fee, specifically, would serve as a progressive form of revenue generator that, unlike the income tax, neither discourages small business enterprise nor encourages mass resource exploitation and blind urban sprawl.

Some might believe that budgetary appropriations ought to be much more fluid, subject to constant voter correction. But these governmental expenditures are not mere figures on a page: resources are committed and lives changed. Were daily polls to decide the fate of previously authorized, let alone disbursed, government expenditures, the ensuing waste of resources would no doubt prove worse than what prevails today.

Yet the national budget need not be balanced from year to year, so long as debts arising from unforeseeable exigencies were borne by current citizens rather than passed on to future generations. Thus, a constitutional amendment explicitly precludes the transfer of debt:

Amendment X – No law enacted by electoral initiative or otherwise shall establish a debt, project or fiscal program where the financing thereof would obligate future citizens to the financial commitments of current voters. Appropriations shall be drawn from revenues collected within one year of their appropriation through floating debt and the collection of these fees and revenues only:

-Usage fees levied upon persons whose activities degrade or monopolize public property;
-Usage fees levied upon persons enjoying exclusive use of land, in proportion to its acreage and the volume, mass and scarcity of natural resources therein;
-Usage fees levied upon foreign governments for involvement of United States military personnel, equipment or weaponry in operations outside the territory of the United States, at the request of said governments, which would otherwise be the responsibility of any sovereign nation to itself;
-Misusage fees levied upon persons whose activities, whether intentional or negligent, damage public property;
-Misusage fees levied upon persons whose activities damage the private property of another person, or impede its exclusive use by barring lawful access to it, or operation of it; physically altering it or its value; or otherwise converting or making improbable its peaceable, lawful, exclusive enjoyment; thereby necessitating the intervention of law enforcement or courts of law;
-Misusage fees levied upon persons who assume unnecessary risks or file frivolous complaints that require emergency public services or courts of law;
-Sales of forfeited, seized property;
-Sales of goods processed or manufactured by state-confined workers; or revenues from the contracting-out of their services;
-Sales of government property to allies of the United States, upon a two-thirds majority vote among the Governors and a unanimous vote between the President and the Cabinet—or the Defense Cabinet, in the case of military property;
-Duties, imposts and excises;
-Safety-inspection and handling charges;
-Any fiscal-program income deduction annually re-authorized by electoral initiative.

All fees shall reflect the actual duration and costs of use or misuse, so that collections in anticipation of use may necessitate reimbursement.

No law enacted by precinct electoral initiative shall institute or increase an appropriation from revenues derived in part or in full from another precinct, unless with a fifty-one percent consenting vote within the latter precinct, or unless authorized by this Constitution; nor withhold or disburse revenues lawfully collected for and due to a city, county or state government, or the federal government.

While congressional committees and their distinguished chairs would no longer hold the national purse strings, outlays of revenues would yet require close supervision and control. That critical supervisory role would be granted to the extra-congressional organizations already established under the current system — e.g. the SEC, IRS, FTC — and duly reauthorized by the incoming Cabinet, a process shepherded by the new Attorney General — now an elected official running on the same ticket with the President and the Vice President, third in succession to the highest office. (see The Presidency, the Vice Presidency and Direct Democracy)

Amendment XI – The power to appropriate revenues and the exercise of oversight, investigative and regulatory authority formerly delegated to the United States Congress by the original Constitution, where not previously delegated by the former, shall be delegated by the Attorney General to, and in turn by, the appropriate executive appointees, whose official acts may be halted by the President, the Attorney General, or by a three-fifths majority of the Governors, when deemed unlawful, wasteful or predominantly political in nature…

In most cases, the People themselves surely lack the time and the enduring interest to study the issues concerned, to weigh their competing priorities, and to stipulate the requirements for each prospective budgetary appropriation. The proliferation of the internet, doubtless, will broaden the capacity of the voting public to determine even the minutiae of appropriations democratically; but until such time as a secure, reliable system were designed, approved, and disseminated, these responsibilities ought remain with dedicated professionals. 

The President, insofar as the budget were concerned, would be only a coequal to the Attorney General and the Governors of the States and would retain the veto power only over those legislative measures enacted as regulations by the agencies created or reauthorized by an acting Cabinet for that task.

We the People, however, through our electoral initiative process, would inherit the authority not only to enact and to alter existing statutory law; but, in rare instances and with rarer consensuses — to alter the American political system itself.

The Insanity Defense: A Parody of Justice

 James Holmes, 24, the orange-haired, accused mass killer, has today been charged with two separate counts of first-degree murder for each of the twelve June 20 deaths inside the Aurora movie theater. The first charge alleges his intention to cause harm; the second, his acting with extreme indifference to human life.

Court video of the accused reveals a man clearly struggling to maintain focus upon the ongoing proceeding; though the cause and even the authenticity of his disorientation is yet unknown. Whether his courtroom behavior reflects a pre-trial strategy orchestrated by him and his defense counsel or a genuine manifestation of a mental disorder, odds are good that a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity will be forthcoming.

Need it be said, however, that mental illness is real? And whether suffering from a psychotic episode or from permanent schizophrenia, the severely afflicted experience a partial break from reality. This fact may seem contestable: They navigate among us, still able to perceive both the objects and the people around them, at least superficially communicating and relating.

But beneath the surface, false internal stimuli are blocking them from an ongoing emotional tracking of, or a personalized integration with, the complex yet mundane, subjective world that forms the basis for our daily associations.

We ought not condemn their actions, therefore, as entirely or even predominantly willful, even under tragic circumstances like the Aurora shooting spree.

Our compassion, however, must not extend so far that we release those judged mentally ill, thus not guilty of their crimes, back into the community within a shorter time frame than would be a competent defendant convicted of a similar offense. The protection of the general public is the primary justification for the continued existence of government itself.

Severe mental illness has many treatments but few to none have cures. And our bodies become habituated to even the most powerful medications when taken over longer periods of time; so that even strong anti-psychotic medications likely will lose their full effectiveness. Mental patients, too, once discharged often decide to take themselves off of their prescribed medications.

For the sake of ensuring public safety, then, it would be irresponsible for the government not to confine the offending mentally ill to institutions, either until cures for their disorders are developed; until their conditions naturally remit, or — at a bare minimum — until such time as a competent criminal defendant might himself have been released.

From the presented direct democracy Constitution:

Amendment VI – In all criminal suits the accused shall have the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation upon arrest; to have assigned to the case, upon incarceration, an impartial clerk of the court, at public expense, who shall verify the legitimacy of probable cause by examination of reports and other evidence and a direct, recorded interview of the accused; to attend an information hearing, where said clerk and the accused shall be queried by a judge other than the trial judge, who shall review the evidence and determine which charges, if any, to file; or in the case of an infamous crime, whether to impanel a grand jury and with which indictments pending; to be arraigned before the same court and afforded a plea offer; and, absent a guilty plea, to be informed of the witnesses to and evidence of guilt and afforded a second plea offer; and to be provided sufficient time prior to trial to obtain witnesses and evidence of innocence by compulsory process, with the aid of a publicly funded clerk of the law, while confined or on bail, and at the discretion of the trial judge as to admissibility—to whom any other citizen with probative evidence may submit a request for permission to volunteer the same at trial, after full discovery.

The accused shall enjoy the option of a speedy and public trial, in which the accused alone shall present a defense before an impartial jury of the state and the district wherein the crime shall have been committed; which district shall have been previously ascertained by law.

At any time the accused may waive the right to a trial by jury; or the presiding judge may issue a ruling, upon examination of the accused and with the assent of two mental health physicians, that the accused is incapable of presenting a coherent, effective defense; whereupon the judge may appoint the same clerk of the law to act as a surrogate defendant, enjoying all the rights and privileges of the accused in the presentation of a defense; or may commit the accused to a mental health facility for treatment in preparation for trial.

An examination of prospective jurors and selection of fourteen shall be made by the presiding judge, subject to challenges for cause by the defendant, from among adult citizens whose self-sovereignty never shall have been revoked; and who shall be compensated per hour an amount no less than, but not more than twice, the federal minimum wage, to be determined by the Governors of the states, respectively. The accused shall then dismiss any two of the fourteen jurors by peremptory challenge.

The right to a neutral audience from the jury shall attend the accused; and at the opening of trial the jurors shall be informed of this right and of the nature and cause of the accusation against the defendant; who shall take the witness stand to respond under oath to any germane questions of the presiding judge and the jurors.

The defendant, or the surrogate defendant, shall then call and question witnesses and present evidence, equally subject to the direct examination of the trial judge and the jury, and to the rulings and directives of the former, who shall guide the proceeding in a manner conducive to a full, reasoned and swift finding of fact and law.

Upon the ruling of the court that the defense has exhausted all relevant, material evidence, the judge shall call to the stand for the same full, direct examination any public officer materially engaged in the investigation, arrest or interview of the accused, including the clerk of the court, ending the process similarly with the aforementioned voluntary witnesses and their evidence.

Except in the case of confession the jury shall retire to decide only a general verdict of “not guilty” or “guilty” of the charged, criminal action: All special qualifications and classifications arising from intent or bearing upon sentencing shall be a finding of the presiding judge; who shall follow statutory guidelines in identifying the class and degree of a crime and imposing the designated sentence where applicable; or else exercise the reasonable discretion afforded by law. But no defendant ruled incompetent to present a defense, or having pled insanity as a defense, then found guilty of the criminal action by an impartial jury after a competent defense, shall serve less time in state confinement than could a competent defendant convicted of an equivalent offense.

The inability of more than two jurors among at least nine remaining to assent to the majority verdict after twenty hours of deliberation shall result in a mistrial and a retrial at the earliest, reasonable date. And when, in the judgment of the jury, a material finding of the judge or the sentence imposed is in error or unreasonable, the jury by a unanimous vote may effect the filing of a notice of appeal of the decision, in the name of the defendant.

Direct Democracy and the Legalization of Drugs

 The United States learned quickly in the 1920’s that the prohibition of alcohol was for all intents and purposes an impossibility, first ratifying and fourteen years later superseding a constitutional amendment to that end. But if the consumption of alcohol were an inherently immoral act, then irrespective of the rise of organized crime and the explosion in alcohol-related arrests, the prohibition of alcohol ought to have been retained.

Morality is a criterion for judging the social adaptiveness of a behavior. What would happen to the world were everyone to engage in a given act? If no appreciable harm would befall others, the act is at worst amoral, but it isn’t immoral. The state of the world would be no worse, even were all people engaged in the act.

Is the question of morality then even relevant when a private citizen ingests a substance? And is the mere possibility that an immoral act might be committed under the influence reason enough to prohibit ingestion altogether? Or do adult citizens retain the freedom to ingest whatever they wish within the safety of their own homes?

Since harming the innocent is by definition an immoral act — for it leaves the world in worse shape afterwards — when ingestion does cause harm, it is immoral. Pregnant women ought not ingest drugs other than those prescribed by a physician. A person under the influence who plows his car into a crowd or an oncoming vehicle, harming innocents, has transgressed what is moral.

The question for society is: Does our government enjoy the right to prohibit amoral behavior in order to preclude immoral behavior? Here we must detour into a discussion of probabilities. Harm is not certain to result from the ingestion of almost any popular drug. But isn’t it much more likely to result under the influence of some substances than others — PCP, bath salts, crack, or meth?

Addictive substances are predominantly harmful: they rob their users of their health, their values, their money, and their independence — all of which often lead to harm to others. And drugs like PCP and perhaps bath salts are predominantly harmful: they induce a psychosis in the user in which his safety and the safety of others is very likely at risk.

But do alcohol or marijuana, or most recreational drugs, fall into either such class — either destructively addictive or psychosis inducing? If the great majority of those polled, users or not, were answering candidly, they would undoubtedly answer: No.

But if our government enjoys any right to exist at all, then the protection of the innocent is the best justification for it. If it did not prohibit the ingestion of substances very likely to bring harm to the innocent — putting aside its harm to the users themselves — then it would at best be an amoral institution and likely an immoral one, one unworthy of further support.

In Amendment XV of this proposed direct democracy constitution, freedom is granted to citizens who wish to ingest those intoxicants that do not fall into the aforementioned categories:

The manufacture, sale, transportation or use by citizens of the United States, twenty-one years of age or older, of any intoxicant which is not likely to induce severe physiological addiction and withdrawal or temporary insanity, as understood by law, is hereby legalized and made subject to all laws respecting regulation of agriculture and commerce.

But the design of this document is only to lay the groundwork for a vast diversity among the American precincts — to solidify only a floor of morality below which no precinct may descend. Should some precincts choose to legalize even addictive and psychotic intoxicants, the proposed amendment does not actually bar them from this. Its purpose instead is to guarantee that inertia alone will not justify the government in continuing to prohibit almost all intoxicants, or even any amoral behavior, simply on the chance that doing so might prevent immoral behavior.

In the same amendment, the aforementioned foundational moral floor for all precincts is then made explicit in the second and third paragraphs:

But the use of any intoxicant, legal or illegal, concurrent with a violation of a federal, state, local or precinct law shall be a felony crime: an offense that suspends the self-sovereignty of the accused before and during trial and revokes it upon conviction; until the accused shall have been exonerated, or shall have served no less than one year in state or federal incarceration.

And the use of any illegal intoxicant by a custodial parent shall be, ipso facto, felony child neglect and cause the immediate loss of custody of all minor children upon arrest; whereupon custody shall be restored only upon exoneration, or completion of sentence and judicial consent.

In other words, even as our right to harmlessly alter reality is enshrined into law, this liberty, like all freedoms, is linked with responsibility to those around us, particularly to innocent children. Any crimes committed under the influence shift the behavioral category of drug use from an amoral behavior to an immoral one and so must be punished.

For we the People, under a new direct democracy, ought to be free to examine life itself so long as we harm no one else in the process while still well protected from others’ recklessness, no matter our chosen political precincts.

Human Nature and Regulation

 When the Founding Fathers within Article 1 Section 8 of the newly signed Constitution granted to Congress the power to regulate commerce, these distinguished gentlemen naturally knew nothing of gasoline, electricity, or bacteria. At the time, workplace and product safety standards constituted for them nary an afterthought. In a nation built upon the backs of slaves this hardly seems surprising.

But after years watching the nation falter under the Articles of Confederation — years of state to state tariff wars, deep recession with dire inflation in state currencies, and both rising debt and unremitted taxes — simply wresting from these foundering states their power to erect tax barriers that impeded foreign and interstate trade was one of their most pressing goals.

Yet in modern America we taxpayers now spend over $2.5 trillion per year footing the bill for both government regulatory enforcement and for public and private compliance.

Possessed of today’s scientific knowledge, would our Founders have designed such an economic burden as a part of their “original intent?”

Must we yet speculate? They died.

We the People must today answer for ourselves which if any measures are necessary and which would best ensure the safety of honest, productive citizens in the free exchange of goods and services — in our daily commerce. No doubt every political ideology will have its own argument for the proper regulator — whether government agencies, private associations — or no regulators at all..

But within both the public and private sectors the one inescapable constant is human nature itself: the power corrupts us; favoritism takes hold; complacency grows; and money talks.  Behold the current global financial crisis. Moody’s Corporation and Standard & Poor’s, two private rating services, were no more trustworthy or reliable than the SEC, a government regulatory agency, in warning Americans of our impending financial securities meltdown.

Fallible human beings man every organization, public and private.

Is the answer then no regulation at all? Ought we discover then only after a high-rise apartment collapsed that the foundation was laid with faulty concrete? Are compensatory lawsuits enough justice, or low rents enough inducement, for the harm visited upon honest, unwitting citizens and their surviving relatives?

Any regulator, public or private, might at any time prove derelict in its duties. But this cannot be reason enough to forsake reasonable public standards, particularly within industries where the public safety is at risk.

In the IT world we see competing models of innovation with widely divergent industry standards: the closed-source operating system and the open-source system. Public safety is nowhere here at risk; and innovation is thriving without such regulation. Let then the hand of the free market and the demand of the consumer determine the course of commerce.

Required is a common-sense rule of thumb, a rule with which to gauge the propriety of imposing a regulation: Does it directly, materially enhance public safety while minimizing costs of compliance — minimized to a degree that would still justify the enterprise in the first place?

But here we return to our human nature: Who shall write such regulations and for which industries? Who shall enforce them? And shall any citizens enjoy immunity from them? What will be the consequences for over-regulation, for under-regulation, and for non-compliance?

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First and most importantly, no one must be immune from the law.

And it would be public employees not private interests or even associations of private interests who surely would make for the most impartial enforcers of public safety regulations.  Private self-governance of public safety, where profit and market share would always be in play, more widely opens a backdoor to our darker human nature.

Industry experts, logically, ought to write the specific standards within their respective fields of mastery. And our own elected representatives, each subject to the recall vote, ought to select such experts as impartially as this our human nature allows.

Finally, we the People, as jurors within the courts of law, will decide both culpability and consequences for the misuse and violation of such regulations.

And the rule of thumb?

No administrative rule or regulation, except those indispensable to the protection of public safety, shall be enforceable where, regarding the regulated, a presumption of malice, neglect, or imbecility inheres to the requirements thereof: But any injury to person or to property, private or public, whose proximate cause is a business or governmental standard or procedure violative of due care and common sense shall nullify the limited liability or the official immunity of the authorizing and enforcing officers, respectively, both in civil and in criminal suits.

(from Amendment XIII)

Some might object here that revocation of the limited liability of CEOs and the official immunity of politicians opens wide the front door to endless litigation. But is this not what hurts us most today — their immunity from accountability?

The broader expansion of citizen accountability — of personal accountability — will serve as the foundation of our collective moral growth. No citizen, and particularly not those in positions of responsibility and power, ought enjoy immunity from our collective judgments and from their own accountability.

So, what then would constitute “due care and common sense?” That would be a definition in our own collective hands, as jurors at trial, to decide — a de facto form of common law for we the People. And this same critical judgment would be brought full circle against ourselves and our own frivolous lawsuits by a provision written as a revenue source into this new direct democracy constitution:

Misusage fees levied upon persons who assume unnecessary risks or file frivolous complaints that require emergency public services or courts of law;

(from Amendment X)

In Defense of Guilt: Double Jeopardy and Pleading the Fifth

….nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself….

Today most Americans nominally familiar with the law accept as a settled matter that the above two provisions from the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution are some of the essential linchpins in the machinery of American justice. But many citizens more familiar with the legal system and specifically with criminal law, or even those who more closely follow sensational public trials like those of O.J. Simpson and Casey Anthony, have come to question the wisdom of permitting only one prosecution of an accused party or of allowing the accused to remain silent during a trial intended to be a discovery of the truth.

Undoubtedly state prosecutions at times, particularly in high-visibility cases, are driven more by politics than by any evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. And criminal trials cost the state and often the accused many thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.

But the virtue of sparing those few citizens who were in the wrong place at the wrong time the anxiety and the expense of a second criminal defense must be weighed against the immorality inherent in denying a victim full justice and in failing to protect the community from an active criminal offender. Prohibiting a second prosecution against a previously accused person, even when compelling new evidence establishes probable cause or guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, surely places a check against rogue prosecutors well ahead of the securing of truth, public safety and victim justice.

Furthermore, if the criminal legal system were altered, such that state prosecutors were no more — where only the evidence itself, as gathered by law enforcement and as reviewed by a trial judge, could determine whether or not the accused would ever stand trial — once, twice, or ten times — then the case against double jeopardy would fall apart.

So who would play the role of the prosecutor at trial?

We the People would. We as jurors would, under the direction and with the assistance of the presiding judge, conduct an examination not only of the accused but of the victim and/or of the witnesses to the crime, of the witnesses for the defense, of the public officials involved in the criminal investigation, and of any witnesses who stepped forward in the name of truth.

Then, rather than being an adversarial system with competing and contradictory theories of the case, our criminal justice system would become a more impartial, apolitical, interactive machine of justice.

But there it does not end. For how do we, as active jurors, get to the truth of the matter when the accused presents no defense or offers no testimony?

First, under this system the evidence must already be sufficient, as evaluated by a criminal trial judge, to establish probable cause for arrest and trial. The principle, therefore, of affording the accused a presumption of innocence seems deluded. He would not be put on trial if a judge — and not even the presiding judge — had not previously found his innocence in significant doubt.

Second, the accused would have no defense counsel to speak for him — unless he were ruled incompetent by the judge prior to trial. No alternative theory of events could then be presented except by the defendant himself. Should the accused refuse not only to testify but refuse, even with the aid of the court, to present any defense at all, then the jury would include this in their deliberations, while determining his guilt or his innocence.

The accused could not be forced to testify; but his silence ought to be interpreted as one sign among all available evidence of his guilt in the case. Whether jurors take it as such would be entirely up to them. But to ask them to suspend their judgment here is to ask them to assume that a competent, honest man would sit silently under examination by his fellow citizens, refusing to aid in a search for the truth in the wake of a crime, for fear that the evidence trail might lead mistakenly back to him.

An innocent man need only recall the truth. Finally, the adversarial system and its competing theories from the prosecution and the defense councils would no longer deter us from a finding of facts and of the truth. And the jury, who often perform this function today, would still decide the verdict, only now only a simple verdict of “innocent” or “guilty.” The presiding judge would retain the discretion afforded by law to determine the class and the degree of the crime, as well as the sentence imposed.

Such a reformed legal system would not only aid in the search for truth, by including our voices in the examination of facts and witnesses; but it would cost the state and the accused far less to do so. No longer would ours be a system tilted toward a defense of the guilty, as a fail-safe against the potential abuses of the prosecution. It would finally be a criminal justice system tilted toward the victims, toward the innocent, and toward the truth.

The Nation-State: Law, Punishment and Immigration

 Earth is such a beautiful world of finite resources, a stately mother who bestows unto humanity no special guarantee of survival. Alone and subjected to nature’s laws, we humans are really quite vulnerable, almost helpless, whether pitted against the elements and any animal rivals in search of our daily sustenance or pitted against one another for continued control of it.

When just two people combine together to take what a lone human owns, they will undoubtedly have it. Thus human history is marred by large collective wars for territory — for control of the scarce natural resources that sustain us. And so our individual rights have been partially or wholly subsumed by state systems, which compel contributions from their citizens — though ideally only to the extent necessary to ensure life — and a dignified life — to all its contributing members.

For government itself is failure: the failure of a free people to act responsibly and with mutual consideration absent the imposition of an intervening, third-party authority. The only good government, then, is a government that weans the People from itself, teaching the greatest majority to respect one another absent any third-party intervention, teaching them to exercise force only in true self-defense or in defense of the truly innocent.

But within any society, our selfish drives, both to exercise unearned influence over others and to garner unearned favor from those already in possession of influence, are a constant — an extension of human nature itself. And these darker, anti-social aspects of our human nature are compounded by our own DNA, evolution’s engine of diversification; which works so tirelessly that, even within the family unit, two perfectly lovely parents might have two wonderfully kind children and one perfect SOB of a child.

Why is this relevant? The family may be viewed as a DNA-microcosm of the greater society: No matter how lovely the society and its rules or how peaceable the citizens and their leaders, born into their midst, just as in families, will be an equivalent ratio of individuals who delight not in following an orderly, voluntary, peaceable system but in bringing chaos and misery to such a system and to its participants — then in hoarding everything for themselves.

Thus we have need of laws, of law enforcement, of courts of law, and of prisons. A benefit of this legal state monopoly upon force is the freedom it provides most citizens to be productive in specialized areas, leaving the police and military, i.e. the specialists, to provide for the protection of all of us. Most people in fact don’t want to live in a state of hyper-vigilance — in a tension-filled, every-man-for-himself world. And they prefer not to know everything about everyone around them, let alone to be known fully by all others: they want to relax and enjoy life more.

Just look to third-world and otherwise underdeveloped countries, where law enforcement is non-existent or subject to private bribery, as examples of the alternative. Little or no industry forms there, because progress hasn’t yet made it past one of the very first, critical stages of a modern civilization: the energetic broad demand for a universally accepted, impartial law.

If this nation were instead of a melting pot an isolated Amazonian tribe within which most citizens shared the same familial genes, such that helping any member would be helping oneself in a Darwinian sense, an organic, unwritten common law might be feasible. But in our modern world, where very different sorts with very different interests and impulses are brought into constant contact and conflict, and where no material/ego/DNA benefit accrues to the one for cooperation with the other, the only jurisprudence subject to more abuse than our poorly written laws would be one with no written laws at all.

Such organic “lawlessness” would leave open wide a defense that since one cannot know unwritten law and its consequences prior to violation; or since its interpretation and application depend upon the jury or the judge or how previous, similar acts were interpreted and the law applied; one cannot be charged with willfully violating such law. Law is therefore subjected to subjectivity — much as we now rely upon the Supreme Court’s subjective interpretations of the original intent of the Founding Fathers.

Even in sea-bound England, where rights are protected without an actual constitution, the trends are toward strife between cultures with differing legal traditions and toward a fight against the EU. There is no modern, collective, organic understanding of law.

Here is yet another justification for a system of direct democracy like this one which fragments the national body into its smallest political units, our voting precincts. In so doing, the largest number of communities, more than ten thousand of them, may enjoy the greatest freedom to determine their own local laws and ordinances — each serving as a sort of proving ground for the rest of the nation.

It then becomes necessary via a strong constitution to explicitly preclude the worst sorts of local ignorance and provincial laws, e.g. a precinct’s abolition of the requirement that children be schooled at all; the lowering of local educational standards below a level necessary for basic functioning outside of that community; a denial of citizenship rights to non-residents or to productive members of a local community; undue leniency toward violent offenders or those who neglect and abuse the truly innocent, i.e. children; or the wholesale legalization of psychotic substances, the users of which might adversely affect neighboring communities.

Without specific, authoritative, constitutional prohibitions, the state of the state that organically develops is most often disorder, followed by bitter struggle and then an imposition of rigid , fragile order (see Egypt, Iraq, Syria, etc.). Consenting adults ought to enjoy the greatest possible freedom to live alternative lifestyles and to design unique local environments — right up to the point where they even marginally do so at the expense of children — of their physical safety or of their fiscal futures.  Hence, constitutional law, more difficult to alter and universally applied, must be written.

This constitution includes a requirement that all able-bodied prisoners labor no less than forty hours per week, eliminating the moral perversion of allowing convicted criminals to rest behind bars while honest, hardworking citizens pay for their incarceration. Perhaps if such drains upon society were forced to wake up and work at five o’clock in the morning and made to work all day, they would then return to prison far less frequently and find a traditional forty-hour work week a little less disagreeable.

It was a scramble for resources throughout history that has led to a huge international stalemate across most of the globe. The smaller states of the world today benefit from the invisible protective shields of the larger states, who extract wealth from the former in exchange for checking the ambitions of the latter. But that underlying scarcity of resources and our inability to share them that made states necessary in the first place remains. So the ideal state is the least possible compromise of individual rights necessary to ensure the rights of all.

And the ideal state of geopolitics, so long as human nature retains its darker aspects, would be one where all law-abiding persons are free to travel among nations, states, and precincts; free to settle wherever they wish; and free to work wherever they settle. But this would only be a possibility where each nation’s government affords all law-abiding citizens the same, minimal level of benefits; and each acts as a sieve, filtering out the criminal element among the world’s population, thereby leaving the rest of us to enjoy our own productive, private lives.

Morality and the Minimum Wage

 Were America to be invaded by a massive foreign force and all able-bodied, law-abiding citizens called upon to act courageously in defense of our common homeland, would it not then seem a vulgar injustice after repelling this formidable enemy were any such patriots then relegated to working at wages below a level providing even a subsistence lifestyle — while yet others returned to their newly secured private wealth and their well-paying positions? Ought not the diligence and the integrity that protects and preserves the free enterprise system for all citizens at least earn for hard-working individuals an escape from a life of dependency, indebtedness and drudgery?

Here our common values and our underlying morality are on trial. Does honest work merit an honest pay? Is there inherent value in integrity and hard work? Let us leave aside for the moment those who free ride upon society and even those who bring children into poverty. Must single working Americans in order to live independently as adults toil at more than one job, live with relatives, and assume personal debt for training and education — all as the price for survival in a supposedly just nation?

Might this be where a free market forces the hand of the invisible individual?

Is modest living and quiet dignity then impossible, or perhaps just unacceptable, for those who, though their skills are limited, would yet be content with their lives? Must fast food workers and janitors be ashamed of their stations? Ought we pity them? And is the price of being an American that all must ambitiously scramble toward the next tax bracket?

Instituting a minimum wage sufficient to guarantee a law-abiding full-time single worker his basic needs — food, shelter, clothing — would stand as proof that we Americans value the very values that sustain us. This would not, however, be a redistributive scheme for expropriating all wealth. Nor would any direct transfer of either an interest in, or the control of, private property be defensible — let alone feasible.

In fact with any hypothetical employee or stockholder control of business a more wasteful use of resources would likely follow: as each citizen would vote for his own self-interests, interests determined by both short-sighted and far-sighted perspectives and by the individual’s share of common sense — or lack of any. The result would be an averaging out of good with bad ideas. While the decision-making of a CEO is more often directed by experience and by a single-minded, highly competitive and so, more often than not, efficient use of resources.

By no means, though, ought the nation’s highest goal be the greatest economic output. Capitalism may indeed deliver the most efficient use of resources and provide us the highest floor of subsistence for all. But is this necessarily moral — or even wise? Ought irreversible environmental damage and mass species extinction be of eventual concern to us? And ought our system be measured by quantity of human life, instead of by the quality of it?

The idea of putting more capital into more hands, as the minimum wage seemingly would do, isn’t necessarily a desirable goal in itself. This would undoubtedly accelerate the destructive exploitation of our natural world through an overproduction of material goods. With more income most people would simply purchase more products and services — each requiring its own natural resources. And thanks to their marginal increase in wealth, some people would also have larger families — children who would themselves consume additional resources.

So what’s so good about a minimum wage then? Isn’t the consequent overpopulation and environmental destruction also immoral? Yes, of course it is. But because the minimum wage sets the wage floor artificially high — i.e. higher than would support the fullest employment possible — it also limits job opportunities and so exerts pressure on those who cannot afford children not to have them: it thereby moderates both population growth and economic growth — this otherwise-destructive, immoral, runaway economic growth — even as it rightly rewards honest work.

That our government currently provides a ready alternative to low-skill, low-wage labor in the form of welfare programs — food stamps, unemployment insurance, etc. — only rewards people for not working, for bringing more children into poverty, and for scamming honest citizens. These safety-net provisions would have to be sunsetted over the course of no more than a few generations, so that each successive generation would face increasingly fewer alternatives to responsible family planning and honest full-time work.

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Value itself is subjective. But values are indispensable. Honesty and hard work ought not be relegated to an economic model of subjective valuation. It stretches credulity to believe that the salary of a CEO is 500 times greater than the company’s lowest-paid laborers; either because the market “demands” such an arrangement, where in other companies it apparently does not; or because this disparity reflects an objectively demonstrable, just valuation of his unique contributions to the survival of the enterprise — as though CEOs, with their obnoxious salaries, weren’t often replaced.

The entire compensation system of the mid-sized or larger company could adjust to accommodate a higher minimum wage, as anyone who has any experience with the wasted time and resources, the general incompetence and the typical redundancy inside most companies could confirm. There are also fortunes spent on ineffective advertising and government lobbying — another advantage of direct democracy — and the consequent tax shelters and special provisions in law. Suffice it to say that most companies are grossly inefficient.

The federal minimum wage acts with a blind uniformity and with a public transparency. It helps those who are actively helping themselves. A regionalized CPI could be used to determine a level for the minimum wage that would provide a local resident sufficient means to afford the necessities of life in his area, as represented by a “basket” of goods and services that all independent, hardworking Americans deserve.

The most obvious alternatives to a moral minimum wage are to continue this amoral welfare state, which now threatens the fiscal life of the nation; or to be rid of the welfare state altogether and the minimum wage with it: Let then the free market flex its invisible hand. Perhaps all honest, low-skilled, hardworking Americans would earn only two dollars an hour; but the price of basic needs might drop in some relation to the lowered cost of labor; such that marginally more poor people could live in relatively more widespread poverty. And the planet could be exploited and overrun until we’re all equally damned.

Or we might express our sounder values through our policies and our polity. We might institute a moral minimum wage and ratify a direct democracy.