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Monthly Archives: October 2014

Here’s a fun fact for you. You all know what does the word “President” means and should sounds like the president is an important and respectful person, but where did the word “President” comes from? It appears the word is derived from the Latin word “praesident”, so a president is an official who presides over a body of people. Initially, it was suggested to crown George Washington as the King of the newly founded U.S.A, but he (so it is told) thought no such power should be given to a single person.The constitutional republic the founding fathers formed is based on a system of triple checks. That’s why America has a President, Congress, and a Supreme Court. Ideally, this system works to give the President just enough power to govern the nation without so much he forgets his position as a servant of the people. You can read more about it at allabouthistory.org.

So words have meaning and there’s a big difference between a king and a president, although ultimately their function is quite similar. In this regard, I would like to suggest that instead of a prime minister, or a president, or a counsellor (counsellor isn’t that bad actually) which should have Stewards. Stewards don’t govern other people. They take care of them. I believe it gives a better focus to the responsibility of what is now known as the “government”.

So like classic democracy, we should have checks and balances. I will now elaborate about the legislator, the executor and the critic.

The Legislator

The legislator decides what is right or wrong, how we should spend our resources and what are our priorities as a society. The rules and laws sets by the legislator apply to all members of society, and so it must consists of the actual members of society. I’m a strong advocate for Liquid Democracy that quickly shifts between direct decision making and the aid of representatives for those members who cannot take part of the democratic process for whatever reason. How this works exactly is a long story on its own, so I’ll leave it for now but I’ll emphasise that there are no more “political parties”, no more lobbyists and no more deals finalised in some dark alley against the will of the people. It is now the people that make the actual vote.

The Executor

Normally, this is part of democracy is called a government. It’s the most important part of the political system and there’s a big issue surrounding its election – namely, that it has very little to do with the citizen’s choice. I suggest transforming this role to “The Public Wellbeing Steward“. Instead of a group of people who don’t necessarily play well together, it’s going to be a single person who can bring his own team of advisors and assistants. When the people elect the person to fill the position, she or he will need to prove relevant experience, solid plan for his term and an estimated budget. The steward will be responsible for the safety, the infrastructure, health, well-fare  and education, which is almost everything the government is responsible for today. I’m a minarchist, so I believe the steward shouldn’t intervene when it is not required. Religion, for example, or marriage shouldn’t be his concern. I’ll leave the exact roles and duties for a future discussion. however, unlike the modern democracy, I believe that the court system should be under the executor responsibility.

The Critic

The Civil Service Critic isn’t something new, but I suggest to grant this position more power, on the expense of the supreme court. The critic should be able to criticise and veto actions done by the legislator and the executor, if (and only if) these actions violate more fundamental laws. Generally speaking, the media shouldn’t be a part of the political system at all, but if there’s a part that should be – it should work for the critic, as they share the same interest of exposing the faults of the system. Again, the critic’s position should be elected by the people.

… and Earth

I would like to suggest a new position, aiming to solve Hardin’ Tragedy of the Commons, called “The State Resources Steward“. This position will be responsible for everything we consider today as public resource – land, natural resources, air and water. And much like a trust fund treasurer, the steward needs to decide how these resources will be used. It is his job to take care of future generations while never neglecting the current generation’s needs. The state resources stewards also solve another Libertarians dilemma regarding the state’s right to collect taxes on a privately owned land: The steward should never sell his land as he may only lease them. The people living in this state are bound to comply with its rules as they are living in a land owned by the state. As he is responsible for all rivers, for example, if a factory wish to dump his toxics in the river it will be forced to pay the steward and with this money the steward may choose to build a decontamination plant. I think this position is desperately needed today.

In conclusion, the political system has an important duty in the life of the citizens. I believe the “job description” should be rephrased in order to focus on the real goals, i.e. benefiting the citizens, and discourage exploitation of power.

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I ran across some libertarians, watched some videos on the subject, and read some articles. Here are my main insights:

  1. In case you didn’t know, libertarians are one step forward from liberals. They believe that no one has the right to jeopardize their rights, and especially the right of ownership. They are also adamantly opposed to the government and to its coercive taxes.
  2. It’s exhausting to argue with libertarians. Not because they are right (they might be, but it’s irrelevant), but because they employ a violent rhetoric which suggests that:
    1. Non-libertarians (and especially socialists) are evil and desire to keep people poor or downright stupid people who know nothing about economics.
    2. Non-libertarians are masochists (“Do want to get raped? because that’s what paying taxes means”)
    3. Libertarians are sure their philosophy is scientifically sound (and you can’t argue with “2+2=4”, right?)
    4. Libertarians aren’t bothered by empirical evidence laid against them and refuse to make inductions (inducing a general principle from a simple example)
  3. Libertarianism assumes that my personal interests don’t conflict with society’s interests. In reality, that’s not true unless I’m an extreme altruist. Libertarianism alone promotes selfishness. Say, for example, I’m aboard a sinking ship. Should I flee on a rescue vessel or should I help everyone else first? what would be the Libertarian choice of action and is it really in society’s interest? The answer I got was: “it’s irrelevant to discuss hypothetical questions.”
  4. Libertarianism refers to the free market and competition (i.e. survival) as their ultimate incentive:
    1. Competition forces you to survive. Not to excel. The output of the entire group is much greater when its members collaborate.
    2. What happens to the losers? Will they have a safety net they can trust or will they be thrown to the dogs as “competition” is actually survival-of-the-fittest?
    3. Will you kill an innocent person in order to save your loved one? Because let me tell you something about survivalism – you’ll do ANYTHING in order to save your loved one. And so will the other person. We don’t want to come down to survivalism.
  5. Libertarians claim that morals and ethics are universal, or they wouldn’t exist and we might as well descend into dog-eat-dog anarchy. That’s not true.
    1. Morals are based on general social consent of a society of people. Different societies have different ethics.
    2. Even if morality was based on an absolute and universal standard, it’s obvious that in reality many people simply ignore it. Who, then, should protect me from bad people? The local mob or militia? are we assuming that I have the money to protect myself from stronger and richer evil people?
    3. A gun represents the ability to use deadly force against another person. There are guns in the world and there’s nothing we can do about it. Unfriendly people might have guns, whether we agree to it or not, and there’s nothing we can do about that either. Who, then, should be allowed to possess a gun?
      1. Everyone? statistics show that most domestic homicides were carried out with licenced firearms.
      2. The local corporate Mafia? i.e. someone who shoots at the whim of the highest bidder?
      3. The government? whose official purpose is to take care of its citizens and who is regulated by checks and balances so no arbitrary single person can decide to use deadly force without answering to a court of law?
    4. Governments and taxes are also based on mutual consent. I don’t pay taxes because I’m being coerced, but because I want to. I want to because I believe this will serve society’s interests and (implicitly) my personal interests too.
      1. Taxes are not theft. They are based on mutual consent.
      2. Please refrain from the “Do you like being raped?” metaphor. No, I don’t want to get raped. I want to have sex, because I think sex is a good thing.
      3. And also with the “gun at your face” metaphor. Were you ever threatened at gunpoint  to compare the feeling? If you believe your taxes are used improperly, democracy has given you the platform to make a change. Involve yourself in politics and stop whining!
    5. Seriously, If you don’t like it, leave. Not in the sense of “Scram! I don’t want you here!”, rather then “I understand how you feel, but I would love to see how you practice what you’re preaching”
    6. Libertarianism would have worked out great if everyone was both moral and libertarian. I completely agree, but this could also apply to Communism and to democracy. Unfortunately, our world isn’t perfect and different people have different perceptions of ethics.
  6. Libertarians really hate socialists. Generally speaking, socialism is the belief that it’s society’s duty to take care of its weaker members. Libertarians, however, describe socialism as “coercion, theft, crisis, violence and death” (that’s an actual quote). I honestly think they’re missing the point and ignoring other people’s suffering on the way.
  7. Libertarians have a naive perception of the free market. Listening to a short lecture by Stefan Molyneux, I gathered the following:
    1. “A truly free market won’t have monopolies because the market would balance itself since as soon as I buy a competitor, the value of the other competitors would rise while I’ll go into debt”. That’s simply not true. A company’s value is a function of its customers and not of its competitors. Big companies crush small companies. That’s the truth.
    2. “A truly free market won’t have cartels to fix prices, because their natural competitiveness won’t let them collaborate”. That’s not true. Cartels usually divide the market to gain most profit by collaboration (that’s their interest, right?). They usually do so on geographical and infrastructure grounds (water companies are great example of this. Personally, for example, I’m locked into paying my local water utility and have no legal alternative).
    3. “In a truly free market, a single company won’t be able to lower the price to force competitors out of the market, because it will drive the company into debt”. That’s not true. Let’s take web browsers as an example. When Microsoft published a free browser, it simply crashed all its competitors (and particularly Netscape that controlled the market up to that point in time). Microsoft didn’t go into debt in order to lower the costs. It was pocket money for them. Moreover, their browser was much worse than the competition, which shows you that cheap bad quality can drive high-quality competitors out of the market.
    4. Which brings me to Molyneux’s last argument: “A company cannot force you to buy low quality products because a competitor will come along and offer you a better product”. That’s not true. The reality is that our products tend to break or become obsolete much faster than ever before. It’s true that a company cannot force me to do anything, but it can easily reduce my alternatives.
  8. Libertarians give really lousy excuses for why Somalia – a failed state with virtually no government which cannot collect taxes, and thus theoretically a Libertarian paradise – is in such a bad condition. These range from extremely racist arguments to “in order for Libertarian principles to flourish there needs to be a strong government that would enforce laws against “unfair business practices” and a strong court system to enforce “property rights”” (actual quote, I kid you not).
  9. My last insight isn’t specifically about Libertarianism, but rather about Pluralism. Pluralism doesn’t mean that “You can live with your wrongness”, but that  “I accept the fact your opinion is different than mine”. Most Libertarians I came across (thought not all) are not pluralists and I think it only reflects a narrow mindset. But this not only true for Libertarians, but for almost any “ism”. The notable exception is “pluralism”, which has a single flaw – it cannot accept the notion that there might be a single “ism” that is right. Personally, I’m OK with being flawed.