Tag Archives: morality

Direct Democracy and the Safety Net

 I must admit I enjoy reading nineteenth century novels. Behind their dusty covers dwell men and women still deeply concerned about the dictates of morality, though like us they live within an increasingly modern, dehumanizing world.

Honest and good people there endure grim straits the likes of which our own poor and disadvantaged, protected by various welfare programs and not much limited by class distinctions, will never really know. Yet these fictional characters often strive to maintain their dignity, their values, and their independence.

I don’t enjoy such reading because I harbor any sadistic inclinations toward my fellow human beings: I simply recognize and appreciate the profound truth that even marginally good people, when individually burdened by the full weight of their own moral decisions, will often nobly rise to the occasion — and so receive the aid of those around them who judge their actions worthy of it. Yet I realize as well that these same marginally good people, if forever afforded the chance to shift a part of that moral burden onto others, may do so without much concern for the people who now must share the consequences of those same important decisions.

This dramatic human dynamic, of course, could be dismissed as just another element of good, effective fiction; and so it is. But the best fiction also rings true.  And the truth is that when our moral duty to one another is preempted by a government and its safety net provisions, the concept of morality itself becomes for many a vague, lazily appreciated abstraction.

It might be asserted — quite convincingly as well — that it would be better to eliminate opportunities for moral distinctions among us altogether than to subject the poor and disadvantaged to what might prove to be our moral failings. But if our beneficent government then fails to make the proper distinctions between those who merit aid and those who do not, thus exacting sacrifices from honest and moral people for the sake of supporting dishonest and immoral ones, not only have we forsaken our own sounder moral judgments and our strongest virtues to an increasingly immoral, collectivized state; but we may well be imperiling the state itself by so burdening the best among us in order to support the worst among us.

Properly designed,  a system of direct democracy provides the responsive, dynamic flexibility necessary to set and reset the aid given in each community to the poor and disadvantaged to the right balance between the private sector and the public sector — a balance that may well shift over time and between locales — hopefully always in the direction of replacing public sector aid with private sector aid and in the direction both of encouraging individual responsibility and of restoring financial solvency and civic good faith.

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Evolution and War: Self-Sovereignty in Direct Democracy

 To defend one’s life is to vindicate one’s natural equality — an equal right to exist in peace: our self-sovereignty. We cannot, however, merely exist together on this plane: we must perpetuate our existence, providing sustenance and shelter both for ourselves and for any children we choose to have. Yet no one person on this Earth has any natural, inviolable, exclusive claim to any material part of this planet — let alone to any other person dwelling upon it — beyond children to their parents.

Though we now guard national borders and enforce private property rights — in order to improve our chances, first, for survival and then, unconsciously, for genetic success — pitted primarily against one another — the warm light of each rising sun might just as well cross a planet newly shared by all of us — never claimed by any one of us — if we were only, in the main, a more enlightened race of beings.

That we are not so, however, does not exonerate us from the distance we put between our lives today and that idyllic, more natural state of human equality. Our almost compulsive propensity for having children — whose own needs justify the further pursuit of property and of wealth — quite often of one another’s — fuels our territorial claims, our private property ownership, our nation states — and our wars.

Those states or tribal communities, then, whose members make the least claims to territory and to property would seem in many ways the more moral ones. But they too are often blindly driven to perpetuate themselves, often heedless of resource scarcities, thus failing to provide properly for what children they have — heedless too of worldly threats from outside their socio-ecosystems — or ill-prepared to defend against them, often warring among themselves or neighbors seemingly out of traditional sectarian or ethnic intolerance, even where natural resources and territory are not actually claimed.

To be moral, either as an individual or as a society, necessitates conscientiousness.

Free market capitalism may be relatively moral in comparison to other socio-economic systems by virtue of its theoretical free exchange of goods and services — thus its amenability to the expression of an equal self-sovereignty. Yet our own marginally free markets lead us only further from that graceful state of natural, non-materialistic equality.

Our system may be a rational recourse in a world where most humans cannot appreciate our fundamental equality — gathering unto us as many resources as possible and building over us a protective military shield. But that this, our system, more efficiently exploits and distributes the world’s resources, providing more people enough wealth to blindly have yet more children — while further insulating us interpersonally from the immediate needs of our fellow human beings — this is neither moral nor remotely conscientious.

Furthermore, a political system like our own representative democracy, in which elected politicians provide intractable entitlements to the most active and successful resource exploiters, i.e. the big corporations, and to the most prolific and irresponsible child bearers alike, undermines any of the theoretical virtues of a republican system. Our polity actually rewards best those who lead us furthest and fastest from an enlightened natural existence. And the characteristic American pursuit of wealth for its own sake, where the needs for survival and the basic comforts have already been met — especially where there are not even children to be provided for — this is a self-evidently vulgar and immoral life: it leaves the world a worse place than it might have been.

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Like so many citizens within sovereign states have been we find ourselves at times committed by an acting head of state to armed engagements against foreign states or terrorist groups whose leaders have purportedly moved aggressively against us and our interests or against an ally in the international community. And whether an ensuing military intervention were waged overtly, as has been the case in Afghanistan, or covertly, as so many CIA operations have been — we may well incur blowback.

But are we, as mere citizens, to be held accountable for the actions of our leaders? Are we liable for their decisions and thus ourselves legitimate targets?
The reflexive, defensively patriotic answer would be: No — that’s exactly what they want us to believe.

But as moral human beings don’t we owe at least an equal regard for the relative innocence of citizens within countries condemned by our leaders as aggressive? Do they not find themselves in the exact same situation as we are in? One could even argue that the less free and fair their political systems are, in comparison to ours, the more immoral we would be to hold such citizens personally accountable for the actions of their leaders — and thus the more egregious would be any harm done to their persons or to their property.

Are we, who live under a constitutional republic, this representative democracy, any less — or perhaps even more — obligated morally to risk, even to sacrifice, our own lives to be rid of our elected aggressive leaders?

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No. We humans owe our lives to no one else, except those to whom we have ourselves given life — and then only while they are young and dependent. No citizens, ours, or those of any other nation on Earth, must risk or sacrifice their lives to spare the life of an unrelated other — whether a fellow countryman or a foreign stranger — unless doing so would spare the lives of their own children. The childless need not even act in defense of their own lives, though to not fight against one who knows no respect for self-sovereignty would be immoral by inaction — leaving to the innocent a world less secure.

Furthermore, if one were to risk his life, let alone to sacrifice it, for the sake of those outside of one’s relative proximity — therefore outside of one’s immediate capacity both to judge the merits of those to be aided and to monitor the actual effects of the aid — if one were to attempt, for example, for the sake of foreign citizens, to assassinate the President, this would be immoral. To blindly forsake those in one’s immediate proximity for the sake of aiding unseen strangers would amount to a retreat from one’s soundest moral footing in the direction of a defiantly symbolic amoral gesture. And if this sacrifice then proved harmful to those within one’s own relative proximity — if the President, in this example, retaliated with an ill-measured use of force — this would clearly only deepen the immorality of an already empty sacrifice.

Better to walk the night streets in aid of strangers for whom one might, after first judging their plight, more judiciously and thus more morally sacrifice oneself. In a nation as large, as technologically advanced, and as secretive as ours, we citizens never possess all the knowledge necessary to make an informed, moral decision about the worthiness of an intervention overseas. The latest Iraq war clearly demonstrated that even our elected representatives are not necessarily in a position to weigh the appropriateness, to say nothing of the morality, of foreign military intervention. The most important decisions with regard to foreign intervention are therefore best left not to the voting public but to the widest feasible array of public officers charged with our protection:

No declaration of war, nor any peacetime initiation of military force outside the borders of the United States and its territories, shall be undertaken without the consent of two-thirds of the Governors of the states and a unanimous vote of assent between the President and the Defense Cabinet, whose membership shall include the Attorney General, the Secretaries of State, Defense, Homeland Security and the Treasury, the Chairperson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the heads of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency; the number and composition of which may be altered by a three-fourths majority vote among the Governors of the states, but shall not exclude the Attorney General.

(from Article II, Section 2)

We Americans seem to be distinguished by our willingness to fight for our own lives, for the lives of others, and for freedom itself. But these strong convictions and lofty ideals do not justify the war deaths of relatively innocent citizens abroad. To act morally in a defensive war every effort must be made to eliminate individual aggressors or an isolated aggressive element without punishing the relatively innocent, e.g. an unwilling citizenry. Where possible, even troops ought to be considered unwilling actors, attacked only when they themselves attack or when they persist with aggressive actions after their leadership has been eliminated.

Nor does our fighting spirit exempt the citizens of these foreign states from a defense of their own lives and of the lives of their own children. The firm resolve of some Americans to commit us all to war, in order to spare any foreign citizens from fighting their own governments or from killing one another — where such a commitment so often means sending someone else to risk and sacrifice his life, rather than going there oneself — represents a particularly immoral impulse. Surely this paves the road to Hell.

Political assassinations since the Ford administration have been — at least officially — prohibited. An ideal policy, though, isolates individuals for the fullest consequences of their own choices and of their own actions — or of their inactions. Where possible no one else ought to be held to account. That the one leader might then be replaced by one far worse, or that such a policy might often prove impracticable, makes it no less a worthy, moral guiding principle. And to refrain from such a policy for fear that our own leader might in turn be assassinated implies that a presidential candidate has not already faced and accounted for the dangers inherent to the office.

 The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of the military of the United States and of the National Guard. But directing of forces in a time and a theater of war and determinations of rank within the forces shall be determined, or delegated to inferior officers, by the Chairperson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, an appointment of the President; so that the President may set, or reset, the objectives of military action, or order the cessation of military action.

(from Article II, Section 2)

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In as much as we begin as self-sovereign equals, yet become unequal only in our demand for private property ownership, no threat solely against property justifies a violent self defense — not by an individual nor by a nation state. Only an earnest, tenable, impending threat against self-sovereignty itself or against national sovereignty — against the freedom to exist peacefully and to use any property as freely as any other, under the laws or customs of a tenably shared community — only this threat to peaceful coexistence justifies a violent defense or the taking of a life. And in conflicts over territory, whether between sovereign nations or religious, ethnic, or tribal communities, those who more actively respect their own members’ self-sovereignty and the self-sovereignty of those outside their ranks — i.e. the more enlightened people — have a stronger moral claim to the disputed land.

As humans we gradually mature into conscientious beings only after enduring as individuals the fullest consequences of our decisions, our actions, and our inactions. Direct democracy, particularly within the constitutional design presented here, is an ideal polity then by virtue of its maximization of individual voter and public official accountability, as well as its strong limitations upon the federalization, or unnecessary collectivization, of statutory law. While we are now far from an ideal human race, this participatory direct democracy like no other political system inculcates the conscientiousness necessary to guide the greatest majority of us toward our enlightened, idyllic future.

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)

The Immoral Income Tax and Direct Democracy

 When the income tax was enshrined within our Constitution in 1913, it had already been imposed decades earlier by statutory law. The 16th Amendment essentially granted our government the right to collect income tax whether the source was our labor or our capital and without apportioning its collection so as to reflect the unequal populations within the states.

Between its ratification in 1913 and 1918 the top income tax bracket jumped from 7% to 77%. It then swept lower in the years leading up to World War II; and in 1945 it peaked at 94%. Today it hovers at 35%.

Not surprisingly, the size and scope of government has also ballooned. How big we allow it to swell ought to depend upon many real-world variables: No abstract political ideology, however finely principled, could credibly predetermine that size. The right answer requires an integration of actual criteria — population, availability of natural resources, willingness of humans to share or trade for them, propensity for and capacity of others to expropriate them — birth rates, death rates, climate, etc.

Contrary to purist political ideologies humans are not now held back from an Earthly paradise by government itself. The rule among humans is discord; the exception, cooperation. Thus government remains a necessary evil — if also an enduring sign of human failure.

But how we fund our government certainly ought to reflect our ideals and our eventual goal. There are moral implications in play here: When the government taxes an activity or a product we are discouraged from it. Ought the government then tax work and efficient productivity? Might it not tax activities and products we would be better rid of?

Crime obviously costs society on many levels — prevention, enforcement, adjudication, incarceration, etc. Would it be so unreasonable then if prisoners were made to work, repaying society for those costs? Or when citizens file frivolous lawsuits or defraud federal programs, ought not these activities be discouraged through the imposition of a fee or a tax?

When for that matter foreign governments around the globe call upon our U.S. military to protect their national borders, ought not these countries pay for our American sacrifices? And when multinational or American companies pollute our lands and waters, shouldn’t we consistently and fully discourage this activity, imposing taxes or fees equaling the totality of our present and our future costs?

The theoretical machinery underlying this moral system of taxation is Pavlovian to be sure, but the actual output generated by it is of moral and material benefit. It highlights the potential instructive role of a limited government —  linking the funding of its services to those citizens who make the services necessary in the first place.

We all require government, for instance, for the securing of our safety, our private property, and our state and national territory; so we all should pay a tax or fee in support of the maintenance of the police and military forces who guarantee these things to us.

Finally, under a direct democracy in particular, this moral system of taxation requires that no one voting block may arbitrarily impose expenditures upon another — not solely among different segments of the public in a given year but, perhaps more importantly, between current voters and all future generations of voters.

Therefore, in order to optimize this moral system of taxation, this Constitution must specifically prohibit such transfers 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.

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)