Customising liberty – a vexing opportunity

Over the years, I have had innumerable opportunities to ‘change politics’. Perhaps the most satisfying are the discussions on Facebook with fellow libertarians. They are relatively ‘like-minded’, but nevertheless, there is still a great deal of scope for divergence on the underlying values to support such a political system. More importantly, one gets feedback and some sense of having an impact upon people. Perhaps the least satisfying is making government submissions. There are several reasons:

  1. It is a considerably draining and time consuming activity
  2. There is no reward, no feedback and no accountability
  3. There is probably an academic living off your taxes who is destined to expropriate your ideas without credit….being the parasites they are.

On this occasion, I have been invited to write a brief 500-word essay for the ACT Party of NZ on how I would change a nation given the opportunity. The opportunity is challenging because 500 words is too limiting given the prospect of technical barriers for some readers, and the scope of the issues. So I shall use this essay as an opportunity instead to elaborate before I submit my summary to ACT. Even still this essay is only 1800 words in length.

If I was asked to describe the type of society that I would like to see adopted, it would be based on the following basic tenets. The reason why I am restricting myself to ‘fundamentals’ is because the ultimate failure of any system lies in ‘details’ without corresponding consideration of the fundamental principles. We can see this in contemporary constitutional provisions to ‘shore up’ certain protections which inevitably fail because they drop the context. The detail defies the spirit of justice or the purpose of law. This is why people ultimately feel betrayed by the legislature and court system. They fail because the constituents were ambivalent about the value of ideas in their life. They thought ‘modernity’ was about ‘sophisticated products’ rather than ‘coherent thinking’. This is ultimately why statutory law has risen to trump common law – at least in the British tradition. It provided a mechanism for politicians to grab illegitimate power by giving people whatever they demanded. The 3 basic tenets below could be considered the ‘antidote’ to injustice. They don’t offer a lot of guidance as to how to reform the system; but they allude to the problems.

Tenet 1 – Objectivity

The greatest failing in political discourse lies in the failure of constituents to give intellectual (i.e. conscious) clarity to their values. Most people are destined to act on unidentified values, whether because of failures of logic, or a failure to establish an explicit conceptual framework for their ideas. Presented with contradictions, most people are not inclined to reconcile their ideas with their knowledge, simply because they want to avoid the ‘appearance’ of contradictions. In the absence of mental efficacy, they are destined to avoid the need for certainty, coherency and clarity. Instead they diminish the importance of said ‘objective’ ideas; whilst elevating the importance of feelings or experience, as well as social validation. Basically they are retracting into their consciousness and not respecting consequences or objectivity. When they do that, they indelibly seek social validation from like-minded liberals. Social validation is ultimately the ‘glue’ that keeps liberals empowered. In contrast, individualists don’t need each other’s support, so they don’t have a strong propensity to seek their approval or mob-political mandates. From a cultural standpoint, we see several examples of liberals and conservatives spurning the responsibility to think:

  1. Financial market collapses – The warnings never heeded, and in the wake of such a collapse, the denial of any said warning. There was a litany of false claims that the GFC was unexpected. The Queen made such a claim. The so-called ‘systemic risk’ was nothing more than our political system – the collectivist foundation for the legislature.
  2. Broad generalisations – The dispensation of conservatives to not engage in philosophical dialogue due to moral privilege. They don’t need to question their disposition because they are rich and poor people need to change. They are not prepared to entertain the prospect of people being disenfranchised by events or their actions. There is a refusal to acknowledge suffering or loss by making a broad brush stroke about the origin of such problems. Thinking is something they do ‘selectively’ to solve problems, and they have compartmentalized boundaries to evade responsibility, whilst profiting from entrenched privileges. Responsibility becomes a ‘tool’ for hiding rather than embracing moral legitimacy.
  3. Political voting – Elections are not simply a preferencing system; they allow constituents to tally votes that affect other moral agents with impunity. i.e. They are not accountable for the consequences of their vote. Voting is plainly extortion. Far from being a foundation for justice; it conveys a disrespectful for it. This of course results in politicians placating their constituents, or manipulating them in order to accommodate irreconcilable factions. There is no reconciliation and the ‘unaccountable system’ is not structured to facilitate such outcomes. It is a system not to achieve moral values; but to diminish moral expectations. The result is a cynical disempowered, disenfranchised electorate.

Tenet 2 – Justice based on rational discourse

Whether we are talking about the creation of laws or their interpretation, there is a prerequisite for justice to be based on an understanding of the facts and the assignment of moral culpability. Moral culpability demands a rational foundation for said standards. This however is not the foundation for the ‘modern’ justice system in three respects:

  1. Subjectivity. Rationality is recognised as a foundation for moral sanctions, insofar as counterparties are required to present evidence and build arguments to support their position. The problem is that legal counsel is competitive, so they are expected to justify their client’s position. This is essentially training criminals to be ‘good cheats’, as opposed to respecting the possibility they are actually capable of innocence. i.e. There is an entrenched ‘subjectivity’ in this process because there is an expectation of ‘irrationality’, insofar as legal counsel is expected to be biased. The problem is that posturing ‘a certain perspective’ does not spare the client, since the legal counsel can simply plea bargain or lose motivation if they know the client has broken the law.
  2. Scepticism is evident in law insofar as presiding judges are not required to arrive at a consistent or conclusive judgement. The system in fact invites and sanctions their subjectivity. The reason they are able to prevail with said subjectivity, is because there are no consequences if they are wrong. Judges should be paid for being right; and ultimately lose their remuneration when they are found wrong on appeal. Time would however be saved if said judges were able to hear the appeal issues before being submitted to an appeals court.
  3. Collectivism is however the greatest folly perpetrated against justice since ancient times. The idea of arriving at legislated laws in parliament where the standard of value is a ‘majoritive mandate’ is no better than offering a legal sanction to a ‘gang bang’. This folly is of course duplicated 10-fold by extending the same discretion to the misinformed, often uneducated, disinterested and disempowered general public. Giving them a vote is not empowering. It is a nominal provision allowing unaccountable voters to make the most spurious of claims, often provoked by politicians keen to appeal to some middle-ground. Only principles could suffer under such a regime.

The proper foundation for a legislature is:

  1. Distributive legislature whereby any person can participate in the development of codified law simply by challenging it, by participating in the writing of legislation or by being a counterparty in a court case. There need only be one legislature because legal principles are universal.
  2. Private courts are contextual, so they are properly distributed around countries, however the proper foundation for outcomes is universal ‘common’ law. Statutory law has no legitimacy.
  3. Private police and a distribution of power regionally and functionally will ensure high standards of conduct.
  4. Private property – There should eventually be no public private because ultimately public property results in a loss of accountability since risks and losses are socialised. Insurance schemes and companies socialise losses and risks without the loss of accountability in a common law society. This is not the case however under a statutory law based economy, as we find in the Western world.

Tenet 3 – Liberty in personal autonomy

The concept of liberty demands clarity, since there are competing attempts to recast it as antithetical meanings. If philosophy is to have any significance, it needs to be premised on several ideas:

  1. Human nature – Human action must be guided by human nature. i.e. The type of thing acting determines how it ought to act. Humans possess rational consciousness. There is not a single collective conscious; there any many ‘discrete’ people with own minds; and thus distinctive corresponding identities.
  2. Mental illness or physical incapacity is not a foundation for moral imperatives. The fact that humans fail to develop healthy values or lack the full range of physical functionality is not a claim on those possessing said functionality.
  3. Human security – Human values are not transfixed by ‘the human condition’ but rather the ‘human potential’. Values are to be achieved; not to be ‘entrenched’ by expropriating from others. If values were so framed, humans would be functioning on a pre-modern basis in the absence of philosophical/moral imperatives. There would be no justice.
  4. Human error – There is no person who is capable of flawless, optimal action. This is not simply a question of immorality; but given the prospects of economic relativism in the market place, even ‘moral agents’ can fail simply because they are not competitive. It is the prospect of ‘consequences’ that are critical to providing a motivation for people to learn in the market place. If we set aside the harshness of punitive law and consider the ‘liberal parenting’ of people. There are a great many children whose self-esteem is diminished growing up because they were raised in a ‘safe bubble’ wherein they never experienced adverse consequences for their actions. They were spared judgement; they were considered ‘intrinsically good’ beyond any functional value they could offer. They kids end up resenting their parents and manipulating them to offer support. Inevitably they graduate from ‘public or parent-funded’ universities to seek the sake support from governments, by way of corporate privileges or government grants. The best example is the privileged banking friends of politicians who are ‘too big to fail’. They were once kids, but in fairness, liberals don’t have a monopoly on moral ambivalence.

The problem with the contemporary idea of rights is that it is completely arbitrary; reading instead like a shopping list. These conceptions are as contradictory and indefensible as popular discourse would entertain. There is no reconciliation because there is no solid foundation for achieving any understanding. Popularity is destined to trump objectivity.

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