Tag Archives: libertarianism

Direct Democracy vs. Libertarianism: Reason vs. Logic

 A meeting of the minds between the opposing camps of any debate, political or otherwise, requires first, at the very least, an acceptance of common terms. A mutual understanding of standard rhetorical fallacies, for example, advances a debate by exacting from both parties a discipline in their argumentation, much as the rules of courtroom order constrain and focus the theories of counsel.

But in the world’s living languages even fundamental terms evolve in their meanings, more often in their nuances, in just a generation or two. Liberals, for example, are not what they once were: the American term now more closely describes a dogmatic advocate for greater governmental intervention than a free-thinking supporter of broader individual liberty.

Our poverty of language with respect to the fundamental facets of the intellect itself has also impeded our search for good political solutions and for common ground. A better understanding of this language deficiency will yield to us more meetings of the minds, allowing all sides to cast aside their respective political misconceptions by recognizing their own weaknesses.

Physics has long since accepted that one cannot grasp the reality of the universe without first incorporating the presence of the observer himself. We humans stand far removed from a full appreciation of our own perceptual shortcomings. But progress toward that end will advance our mastery of both the physical sciences and the science of politics.

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The more common set of descriptive characterizations of intellect — intelligent, smart, bright, and moral — or unintelligent, dumb or stupid, dull, and immoral — are each used almost interchangeably. But meaningful distinctions ought to be drawn between the constituent functions of intellect — some better suited to a discovery of real-world principles and appropriate political plans of action than others.

Intelligent vs. Unintelligent: (an efficient acquisition, retrieval and logical manipulation of relayed data)

A highly intelligent individual may test at the genius level in one narrow field of knowledge and yet be sub-normal in all others: the common term for such a person, often autistic, is savant. Rarely are such people productive members of society, as their specialized genius proves non-adaptive to the subjective and often illogical complexities of a human-dominated real world.

In the sordid affairs of mankind it isn’t sufficient to possess an encyclopedic knowledge in one field or another — or even in quite a few. The storage in human memory of what amounts to a knowledge of specialized trivia and even its retrieval and manipulation into logical configurations is a form of intellect best performed today by computers — devices equally divorced from any working grasp of human nature and human values, i.e. from human morality.

Some of our more sadistic serial killers were in fact highly intelligent: Extreme intelligence is an amoral quality, a trait that neither guarantees an individual’s adaptability nor precludes his evil action — or the evil acts of those relying upon his high intelligence. Any vision of a utopian society governed by the most intelligent among us would be a hopelessly incomplete and an amoral one.

Is higher intelligence preferable to lower intelligence? Of course it is. But just as in evolution bigger hasn’t always proven better and more specialized means less adaptive to a changing environment; so too, where intelligence comes to dominate the intellect — where information is thus gathered through relayed data, not through personal experience and social interaction — a social deficit, even a distinctly misanthropic disposition, is much more likely to result.

Smart vs. Dumb/Stupid: (a reasoned decision-making, i.e., a higher capacity to effectively predict and determine outcomes by virtue of a real-world experiential understanding of cause and effect)

For smart people an assessment of cause and effect in the real world informs their judgments concerning the proper courses of action — not relayed data assiduously committed to memory. Highly intelligent savants find even the simplest goal-oriented reasoning difficult. They cannot effectively process subjective perception, causal experience and stored memory into a ranking of probable outcomes of alternative plans.

For most of us, however, this is just our natural integrative reasoning, which generally takes place in fractions of seconds; and, intelligent or not — i.e. able to process relayed information or not — we are almost all able to learn from our own mistakes and thus make smarter decisions over time.

To be smart demands reason. Many animals are thus quite smart — but they are not intelligent, in the sense presented here. Chimpanzees and crows can problem-solve their way toward obstructed food by virtue of their advanced understanding of cause and effect — sometimes more advanced than many humans. But they still lack the resource of non-experiential relayed knowledge — knowledge derived from the stores of others’ experiences, recorded or conveyed via a common medium.

Reasoning is a dynamic process of adaptation and may serve the individual well absent any relayed information at all. Yet even smart individuals, even if highly intelligent as well, may not necessarily be introspective. Like the best Labrador retrievers, they may find or, in the case of humans, intelligently research a novel way to reach their chosen goals. But they may never stop to question their underlying motivations and values or their larger roles in the world — let alone the underlying structure of the world itself. Higher human concepts of equality, justice, innocence and guilt — the cornerstones of morality — may still be but vague concepts or of no concern at all.

But logic, admittedly an often useful construction of and from an abstracted reality, is nevertheless based solely or primarily upon relayed data. Without adding the dynamism of reason as a real-world corrective guide, one would not be expected to adapt and survive in the real world by intelligence and its logic alone. Yet neither would one expect the smart individual, lacking all recourse to relayed data, to measure up against both a smart and an intelligent adversary.

Bright vs. Dull: (an understanding and integration of empathy, hierarchy and social reciprocity into effective social organization and individual action)

To be bright is to be socially insightful — which is not necessarily to be socially successful. Bright people are aware of or at least interested in others’ feelings most of the time. But this may prove both a blessing or a hindrance, depending upon the values of their societies and the tenors of their times. Bright people are almost never willfully defiant  or intentionally rude.

Bright people avoid crass, selfish behavior by seeing themselves through others’ eyes, i.e. by exercising empathy. They practice social reciprocity for the pleasure of doing so alone, yet also for its social benefits; and they respect the efficiency and the justice inherent in merit-based, scarcity-driven hierarchies.

Of course, many people consider themselves very bright and are yet very far from it. There are highly intelligent, Harvard graduated, world travelling overachievers — whose smart decisions made them millions  —  who are yet the very dullest of human beings, gracelessly droning on about themselves without any awareness of others’ true feelings about them — and without the loyalty or the affection of their subordinates or their families.

Brightness, being only the social aspect of our intellects, does not portend actual intelligence, per se, nor even smart decision making, let alone provide a ticket to wealth and social status. It is an innate understanding of what motivates people and how to subtly influence them — an understanding that becomes increasingly less welcome as the resolution of a given issue grows time-critical and therefore demands the immediate use of relayed data or of well reasoned decisiveness.

In such situations brightness in fact may prove to be more a divisive element and a distraction from effective decision making than a crucial resource thereof. Bright people are not primarily interested in making decisions themselves, but only in influencing others’ decisions and solidifying or improving their positions among the decision makers.  They may, however, often excel both at analyzing the motivations and at predicting the decisions of opposing decision makers and thus at placing themselves in a position to benefit their own chosen leaders.

And in the course of everyday life bright people possess the social facility to manipulate and solidify relationships upon which most hierarchies and, by extension, most societies are determined. Without this aspect of brightness, including its finer qualities of charm and grace, “society” would be bereft of the very spirit of the term.

Moral vs. Immoral: (a judgment of innocence and guilt integrated into action —  Wise vs. Unwise)

One might object to categorizing moral sentiment as a facet of intellect. But moral judgment integrates all the facets of intellect into appropriate, effective action: One must be bright enough to universally recognize and to deeply value innocence for its own sake — i.e. not just one’s own innocence — in turn distinguishing and condemning others’ and one’s own guilt. One must be smart enough to act effectively both in defense of the innocent and in the prevention of guilt. And in order to vindicate the former two facets of intellect cited above, one must be intelligent enough to benefit from the whole store of human learning.

[For a more detailed discussion of morality, see the site page, Of Morality.]

Bill Clinton is a highly intelligent, smart man, and very bright — but he is not a moral man. While he may enjoy all the facets of intellect necessary to be moral, his actions seem more often determined by something other than his intellect. Selfish base drives and ego needs are always in competition with the intellect. But moral human beings tame their individual needs and drives in order to focus more fully upon the dictates of morality itself.

Though a moral person adapts best to a changing environment, gifted in all facets of intellect, survival is by no means assured. In a predominantly immoral world such as ours, morality may require of the moral individual even a violent defense of the innocent, including, of course, of himself.  Yet the moral individual has integrated intelligence, reason and brightness into a sincere appreciation for the intellect itself — which is to say, for human life itself.

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The trouble at the heart of libertarianism is that voluntarism and non-aggression are purist ethical principles that fail to address the current negative realities of human nature. Their models may be entirely logical, using imaginary peaceable human beings in order to construct idealized ethical theories. But unbound by any realistic representations of humans existing in societies today, their proposals amount to escapist games of logic.

Without beginning with the world as it is, developing some systematic proposal for altering or at least containing the more violent aspects of human nature — aspects that would never be voluntarily suppressed by the offenders themselves —  whose violent tendencies first gave rise to the nation states — libertarianism will always remain a marginalized political ideology. It is intellectually lazy to contend that violence is largely the product of forceful state systems; and it is intellectually indefensible — stupid, in the terms presented here — to ignore the inevitable cause and effect of unilaterally forsaking the real protections of a state system in favor of a voluntary society. Ask the Tibetans about doing this.

Without introducing a transitional political system designed to shift human nature itself toward an all-voluntary, non-violent society, libertarians aren’t proposing anything at all. And in the real world, where dangerous people do exist, it is immoral to turn one’s back upon this dangerous and intransigent, genetics-based reality — condemning our state system instead, which at least marginally protects the innocent from such destructive people. Finally, to argue for a system where protection of the innocent is left to private, voluntarily financed militaries is probably the stupidest, the dullest and frankly the most absurd — and therefore the most immoral — of its logical extrapolations.

[For a further explanation of the necessity of the state, see site post, The Nation-State: Law, Punishment and Immigration.]

Among the virtues of the direct democracy system presented here, its capacity to force accountability and self-reliance onto both communities and individuals distinguishes it from others: No transfer of debt to future generations is permitted. And those who necessitate government and its services are the ones who pay for its continuation. Thus prisoners, justifiably separated from the rest of society and thus at least temporarily kept out of the gene pool, are still required to work at least as many hours as do honest citizens with full-time jobs.

All convicted prisoners shall labor no less than eight hours per day, five days per week, unless two physicians certify that they are physically or mentally incapable of as much; and only in so laboring shall able prisoners earn the privileges of hot meals, visitations, educational and recreational opportunities and personal, non-toiletry possessions within cells.

(from Amendment VIII)

The design therefore is intended to direct human behavior — and, where necessary, human genetics — toward the development of a prevailing spirit of classical liberalism, while fostering respect for diversity as well, particularly with respect to those who don’t already share in that higher political spirit. For a realistic, workable model of a voluntary society must contemplate the probability that individuals, even within a libertarian community, may choose to reject the founding principles and yet remain citizens or at least residents. Such people must therefore either be forcibly prevailed upon, constrained or removed.

The system presented here seeks the least forceful, most foresighted, most realistic means by which to minimize that ever-present issue of ignorance and willful violation of individual sovereignty.  It forces individuals to choose the political rules by which they themselves must live, leaving others to do the same — each and all learning thereby — and imposes appropriate, corrective, yet non-punitive, costs upon those who continue to refuse to take responsibility for themselves.

But what makes this proposed direct democracy more moral than any voluntary, libertarian society — where coordinated state protections are to be forsaken in favor of voluntarily financed (i.e, unanimity based) competing private forces — and more moral than our present situation — is its smart, specific protections of the truly innocent, our own children: 

Amendment V – The intentional, knowing, reckless or criminally negligent infliction of death or grave physical or psychological injury—a disabling injury that is not susceptible to humane, restorative care or natural, restorative healing absent professional medical or mental health intervention—by an adult upon a minor, a postpartum human being younger than eighteen years of age, henceforth shall be a high crime: an offense so heinous and degenerate that, upon conviction and exhausted appeal of the convicted, the latter shall be confined by the state, apart from the public, until death.

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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.

(from Amendment XV)

Healthcare Reform: Reason and Direct Democracy

 The strong and inelastic demand for healthcare in America — our demand for the very latest technological advances in diagnosis and treatment — sends soaring skyward the prices we pay for medical testing and procedures, far above the reach of the average American. Hospitals, to be competitive with one another,  attract the better doctors using generous fee-based pay schemes, whereby doctors, who are always vulnerable to malpractice suits anyway, are financially incentivized to perform services that might not be effective or even necessary.

Hospitals must also recover the costs of multi-million dollar medical equipment that attracts both the finest physicians and the privately insured. So even when existing medical equipment is working well, an innovation in technology imposes pressures upon hospital administrators to update their equipment in order to retain market competitiveness.

But there are other causes for this pricing predicament: Doctrinaire free market advocates would ascribe it to our government’s market interference — its limiting of nationwide insurance competition, its mandating that illegals and the indigent receive treatment, and its insufficient reimbursement models for Medicare and Medicaid.

Doctrinaire liberals, on the other hand, would bewail the corporate, profit-driven denial to Americans of our right to healthcare treatment, carried out through lobbyist influence and the consequent legislative blocking of a universal single-payer system.

But the healthcare issue is far more complex than this.

What if, for example, we Americans had no fear to face either the social stigma of disease or the blank unknown of death? What if we dutifully treated our common illnesses and injuries but accepted the onset of a fatal disease or the infliction of a mortal wound with a selfless dignity rather than with a mortal desperation? And if we refused all expensive, life-extending measures?

The consequent fall in the demand for emergency medical care might be well reflected in lower prices paid by all. So ought we struggle to forestall and overturn the verdict of Nature, even at great cost to family or to society? Is that a civil right?

The human genome is surely devolving in consequence, as diseases that might have killed yesterday’s adults are instead cured by modern medicine. The underlying pathogenic genes responsible for the disease are still passed to the next generation — whereas such genes in past generations would have brought about their own demise. Who knows how this concentration of pathogenic genes will affect future generations?

But is an enlightened attitude toward life, disease and death required in a country whose medical field advances so quickly? It seems quite likely that another century will not pass before genetic therapies have overtaken the spread of disease in humanity. Perhaps then we can “back-engineer” our own human evolution.

For now, unfortunately, we find ourselves caught in a very expensive transition to that medical paradise — that future when perhaps medical costs will have become negligible for everyone — of no import whether universally covered or privately paid.

So, assuming that an enlightened life perspective is out of the question, how do we get there from here? The advancement of medical research and technology must not be slowed; yet the costs of care today ought to be curtailed — or else this, our pricey purgatory, will prevail longer than necessary.

If free market advocates had their way, their resulting open market would not ameliorate the increasingly expensive medical-technology and doctors-fee competition between hospitals: People are so desperate to prolong life, even a few weeks or another month, that the demand for healthcare would remain inelastically high at any price.

And if the liberals prevailed — laying aside the absurdity of one person having a “right” to be treated medically by another human being — at a price point — then presumably a bureaucrat, or a body of bureaucrats, would be officially charged with administering a new universal system. Faced with finite financial resources, they would either make distinctions between those who merit treatment and those who do not; or they would ration resources across all patient care, making little distinction between a patient injured or ill through no fault of his own and one whose actions directly caused his condition, e.g. a chain smoker or a bungee jumper. But such official injudiciousness and arbitrary magnanimity by the state more injuriously debases morality and delegitimizes government than the free market in its fullest operation.

The solution then?

Because demand is inelastic, prices must be kept artificially down. The free market functions for all consumers only when both supply and demand are elastic in relation to price. But to individually set the price of every medical procedure and of all medical equipment would require endless bureaucracy and thus invite unlimited favoritism and red tape.

The real answer requires a broader principle than this.

From libertarians we find an objection to state licensing of professionals because, they argue, such government intervention places artificial limits upon the number of doctors and medical professionals in the field and upon the nature and the number of medical devices and treatments available to all.

But rather than dropping state licensing requirements altogether, why not make explicit the link between state licensing and state price controls?

In other words, if medical professionals and medical suppliers wish to receive the imprimatur of the state and whatever legitimacy accompanies such certification, the value exchanged for this bona fides would include a limitation upon the fees charged by professionals for their services and a limitation upon suppliers for the prices charged to consumers for their products:

No person to whom any of the several states or the United States has granted a license to render a service, or to own or operate a device intended to provide such a service, or to provide a good shall retain the same upon exacting a rate, a fee or a price that exceeds twenty times the federal minimum wage; two times both the actual costs of operation of the device and the resulting marginal dimunition of its functioning life, as applied to its replacement cost; or two times the cost to replace the good, respectively.

(from Amendment XIII)

Under this system the state licensing of professionals might well fall into relative disuse, likely concurrent with an explosion of unlicensed or privately licensed practitioners. The more the merrier, as this greater number of providers would better meet the constant high consumer demand, in this case for medical care, thus lowering the price for the average healthcare consumer. Yet those who retained their state licensing and abided by the fee and price limitations, no doubt true humanitarians, would exercise a secondary price-competition pressure upon unlicensed providers, keeping prices lower across the industry.

And any medical professionals and medical suppliers opting to operate outside of state licensing could still charge private patients, insured or cash payers, whatever the market dictated. Private hospitals could operate with only private licensing, or none at all, perhaps charging for the highest quality care and for the latest technology the fees that only the most affluent could afford. Even so, the technology competition between separate private facilities would fuel medical research and technology advancement and thus extend the progress of medical science for all.

That this state licensing in a direct democracy constitutional amendment was extended to all industries reflects an attempt to avoid legislatively targeting a single industry, avoiding a de facto bill of attainder. As for those citizens who, even with price controls linked directly to state licensing, still could not afford healthcare, they might either rely upon private charities — adopt an enlightened attitude toward life and death — or limit their health risks and unnecessary expenditures, perhaps even their number of children.

Thus, for the greatest number of people we preserve the usefulness of the state and the better elements of the free market system, limiting the ability of state licensed professionals to benefit from state power in exacting from their customers prices that do not reflect their actual costs — the costs that would prevail given full competition among the largest number of suppliers.

And thus we, the People, find ourselves the beneficiaries of more affordable products and services for the foreseeable — and well into the rapidly advancing- future.

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.