Time to take back our civilization from the parasites and pests
Part Three: My Liberty Philosophy
By Neil Lock
(January 18th, 2023)
This is the third in a set of (on current plans) five essays, in which I aim to analyze and to diagnose the woes to which we human beings are subjected by today’s political system, and to put forward some ideas for how we might fix them. You can find the first two at [] and [].
Today, my subject matter is Philosophy. Or, as I like to call it, Fillosophy, with a capital F. But this will be no highfalutin, indigestible, Germanic professorial tome! What I plan to do is explain, in as simple a way as I can, the basics of my philosophical thinking. This essay will, however, be (unavoidably) long: over 20,000 words! And very wide-ranging, too.
To some extent, I am re-working old ground here. For I published an earlier draft of my system, in six essays, in June and July 2021. (These essays are linked from the second paper I referenced above.) But today, I will focus on those of my ideas, which I see as essential to the ways in which we human beings will need to behave in order to move forward.
The antecedents of my thinking
In constructing my philosophy, I have been considerably influenced by an American thinker who calls himself Jason Alexander. (Not the actor of the same name!) However, being what I am, I’m not shy about interpreting, extending, or even subtly re-working other people’s ideas in order to incorporate them into, and align them with, my own world-view.
Jason Alexander himself was in his early days a follower of the Russian-born American philosopher, Ayn Rand. Though he was, by his own account, expelled from the Objectivist “church” in the 1960s. As a result, I have taken on some of Rand’s ideas, though I am certainly not a fully-fledged Randian. One of those is her view of philosophy as a stack of five layers, branches or dimensions.
In the terms of classical philosophy, the first four layers are Metaphysics (what’s out there), Epistemology (how we know what we know), Ethics (what is right and wrong for each of us to do) and Politics (how we should organize ourselves for maximum benefit to all). The fifth is, in my view, a compote of various philosophical ingredients, including Economics and Aesthetics. Because I like to keep my terms simple, I have given these five branches or dimensions my own names: Be, Think, Behave, Organize and Do.
Alexander has influenced my thinking in other ways too. First, he makes a key distinction between Understanding (moving upwards through the dimensions, with the ideas in each being rooted in those beneath it) and Overstanding or Superstition (moving downwards, with each dimension being driven by the ones above it). I have adopted his distinction, although I prefer to use the words “bottom-up” and “top-down.”
Second, his view of history, which he calls Ages and Stages, posits a series of revolutions, in which we human beings move forward into a new era, opening up increased capabilities. But each revolution is followed by a counter-revolution from our enemies: those that want to halt our progress, or even to haul us down back towards where we came from. I gave my version of the ages and stages, revolutions and counter-revolutions, in the second essay in this set.
Third, I very much appreciate the distinction which he makes between Civilization and Politics. The way I look at it, Civilization is bottom-up social organization, fuelled by Understanding. Whereas Politics is top-down social organization, fuelled by Overstanding.
From Alexander, I move to his teacher Rand, who is something of a cult figure among many US liberty lovers.
One idea of Rand’s I consider a breakthrough comes in the area of ethics. She wrote, rather obscurely: “The fact that a living entity is, determines what it ought to do. So much for the issue of the relation between is and ought.” Side-swipe at David Hume notwithstanding, I interpret her first sentence to mean “What a living entity is, determines what it ought to do.” In other words, right and wrong behaviours for a species of sentient beings are determined by the nature of that species. I paraphrase this as “Identity determines morality.”
Right and wrong for a giraffe, for example, are different from right and wrong for a lion. A giraffe naturally picks fruit and leaves off the tops of tall trees; whereas a lion naturally chases, kills and eats animals like zebra. If they tried to swap behaviours, both would go hungry, and many lions would die through falling out of trees.
Right and wrong for a human being are different again from right and wrong for a lion or a giraffe. But what is right and wrong for any two individual human beings to do must be the same for both. For they are determined by the nature of humanity; what John Locke called the “law of Nature,” and many others have called “natural law.”
Another thinker of the past, who has greatly helped me in developing my system, is John Locke. His Second Treatise of Government (with a few assists from the First) taught me most of what I know about political philosophy. Indeed, when I come to the third and fourth dimensions of my system, I shall make extensive use of quotations from Locke.
Frank van Dun
Another thinker who has helped me a lot is the Belgian philosopher of law, Frank van Dun. First, he has given me a key word: “convivial.” Literally meaning “living together,” in English this word has a secondary meaning of feasting in good company. Or, otherwise put, of living together well. I also use this word “convivial” in the sense of “fit to be lived with.”
Second, he provides support for my view about the relation between a species’ nature and its morality, at least for human beings. For he writes: “What natural persons can or cannot do is not defined by any set of legal rules. It is defined by their nature, which we have to accept as ‘a given’ and to study accordingly.”
Third, I found most useful his distinction between what he calls “the laws of conviviality” – the ethical code individuals should follow in order to behave as convivial human beings – and “the convivial order,” the (perhaps somewhat anarchic) order which results when everyone keeps to the laws of conviviality. This enabled me to split the ethical and political areas of my system, which in earlier drafts I had seen as one great big glob I called Relate, into two distinct parts. The ethical part I now call Behave, and the political part Organize.
I also include Aristotle among those who have influenced me, even though – as I came to him late – I have directly used his ideas only as a cross-check. I also confess that I was not much impressed by his Politics; it is too top-down for me. Too much Plato.
However, I was positively impressed by his Ethics. And this despite Aristotle (like Ayn Rand, whom he hugely influenced) being a virtue ethicist, that is, one who sees ethics in terms of laundry-lists of virtues. Whereas I think of myself as a rights ethicist, one who sees ethical behaviour in terms of respecting the rights of others.
The sixth and final thinker who has helped me is the German Jewish philosopher, Franz Oppenheimer. His distinction between the economic means of getting needs satisfied, “one’s own labor and the equivalent exchange of one’s own labor for the labor of others,” and the political means, “the unrequited appropriation of the labor of others,” is – rightly – famous. And he was the first thinker to identify, and to call out for what it is, the most egregious of all the users of this political means: the state.
To sum up
Jason Alexander, with the help of Ayn Rand, has provided the framework for my philosophical system. Rand herself has helped me find a key insight into where ethical standards come from. John Locke has provided the basics of my political philosophy. Frank van Dun has provided me with the key word “convivial,” has given some support for my thinking on the relation between species and morality, and has enabled me to separate ethics clearly from politics. Aristotle has provided a most useful cross-check. And Franz Oppenheimer has, more clearly than any of the others, identified the primary enemies of humanity: the state, and the politics it spawns.
Overview of my system
I will repeat here the overview diagram of my philosophical system. It was originally published in 2021 in the third of my set of six essays.
Figure 1 – Overview of my philosophical system (Honest Common Sense 2.0)
As indicated at the left, my system follows the progression which Jason Alexander calls Understanding, with each dimension being driven by the ones below it, rather than the ones above it.
In each dimension, there are one or more Processes, which take place in that dimension. At the right are the Product or Products of the dimension. All these dimensions are shown from the point of view of a human being: a member of the species Humanity.
In the Be dimension, Identity is what things are. Each and every existent has an Identity. This includes sentient beings, such as humans. For me, and presumably for you, the product of this dimension is Humanity; reflecting that we are human beings. And, as we discovered at the Neolithic revolution, it is natural for us to take control of our surroundings, and to make them into a better place for us to live.
In the Think dimension, I have followed Jason Alexander’s definition of knowledge: “Knowledge is the Identification of Identity.” Knowledge is obtained by identifying what is. Our nature in this dimension is to examine the facts in any matter, and to use our ability to reason to arrive at deductions and conclusions, which we can then add to our store of Knowledge. It was in ancient Greek times that we discovered how to do this.
In the Behave dimension, there are three processes, all of which will be important in what follows. I shall go into more detail about these later. Overall, our nature in this dimension is to behave as human beings; to follow the ethical principles which are natural to us. And the product of the dimension is Conviviality. That is, the quality of being convivial, or otherwise put, fit to be lived with. It was at the Renaissance that we enjoyed a revolution of the human spirit, instituted a long overdue revival of moral philosophy, and began a journey of discovery towards understanding our nature.
In the Organize dimension, there are four processes. Again, I will discuss them in more detail later. In the round, our nature in this dimension is to build civilizations, which provide the maximum benefit to every individual in them. It was at the Enlightenment that we began to understand this aspect of our nature. And the product of the dimension is bottom-up Civilization; as opposed to the top-down Politics under which we suffer today.
In the highest dimension, Do, the processes reflect that our natures as human beings lead us to create, to work and to trade with each other in order to get satisfaction of our needs. Franz Oppenheimer’s “economic means” is built into our natures as human beings. I summarize this in the phrase: “What Creativity creates, Economics exchanges, and Aesthetics appreciates.” And the Industrial Revolution enabled us to set this aspect of our nature into action.
The twin products of this dimension are Realization, Jason Alexander’s name for the products of Civilization, and Fulfilment, the best translation I could find of Aristotle’s eudaimonia.
In the bottom-up progression of dimensions, our Identity is as human beings. In turn, Identification of what is, and the Knowledge it generates, lead us towards understanding the world around us, and towards understanding ourselves. So, our Knowledge drives the processes of our Behave dimension. Next, these processes of ethical equality, honesty and respect for human rights, and the Conviviality they engender, drive social Organization. And the Civilization, generated by the processes of our fourth dimension, generates the environment in which we can Do what is natural for us to do. That, ladies and gentlemen, is bottom-up philosophy; with both a capital B and a capital F.
Next, I shall look at the individual dimensions. My treatments of the first, second and fifth dimensions will be fairly brief. In the third and fourth, which are the operative areas for diagnosing and fixing the problems we suffer today, I shall go into a little more detail.
The Be dimension
In the Be dimension, equivalent to classical Metaphysics, there are two questions to be answered. One, what’s out there? To which, my answer is: Reality. Two, what am I? To which I answer, I am a human being. The first of these questions I think of as the general question of the first dimension, applying to the Universe as a whole. The second, the specific question, applies to each individual.
What do I mean by “Reality” as my answer to “what’s out there?” I mean that the Universe exists as real stuff, independently of any models of it I may make inside my mind. And that the only Universe (or, at least, the only Universe relevant to me) is the one I live in. Thus far, I broadly agree with Ayn Rand. But I do not go so far as to assign to Existence a separate and superior status to that which she allows to Consciousness. I take, instead, a “dual-aspect monist” view, in which existence and consciousness, body and mind, are each two aspects of one whole. Just as space and time are two aspects of Albert Einstein’s space-time, or the real numbers and the imaginary numbers two aspects or projections of the complex numbers.
What do I mean when I say I am a human being? I mean that I possess the nature of a human being in each of my dimensions. It is natural for me, as for all other human beings, to take control of my surroundings. And to work to make them as human-friendly as I can, and towards making our planet into a home and garden fit for our species, Humanity. It is natural for me to seek the full facts in any matter, and to think logically and rationally. It is natural for me to behave according to the standards of conviviality and honesty which are appropriate to human beings worth the name. It is natural for me to respect the rights of those who themselves respect my equal rights. It is natural for me to associate with others for purposes which are mutually beneficial. It is natural for me to co-operate with others in order to build Civilization. It is natural for me to create ideas, products or services which are valuable to others; to trade with others for the satisfaction of my needs; and to enjoy the fruits of my labours as I see fit.
As to Metaphysics, I regard my personal metaphysics as the ultimate source of my world-view. Since metaphysics lives at the very lowest level of the psyche, below rational thought, I don’t consider it very useful to try to pick arguments about it. Metaphysical ideas can be disproved, if they lead to contradictions; but they cannot be proved.
With regard to animals, I take the view that humans are currently the most developed sentient beings on this planet. And it is in our nature to make use of animals (or, as some would say, other animals) for purposes which benefit us. Though we should, of course, always treat them as the sentient beings they are.
A point regarding the status of humans in comparison to animals. Like any other sentient being, we humans have within our nature an instinct for species preservation. This naturally leads us to regard human lives and well-being as more important than the lives and well-being of other species. This behaviour is no different from (other) animals. A lion, for example, always puts the interests of itself and its cubs ahead of the interests of its prey.
I do not now go so far as to say that humans are innately superior to other animals; though I have put forward this view in the past. But I regard the attitude professed by many environmentalists, that the interests of wildlife should be regarded as more important than the interests of human beings, as not only unnatural, but also anti-human.
With regard to resources such as minerals, I take the view that they are there for us to use wisely in order to improve our lot. And with regard to the planet as a whole, it is in our nature to make it into a home and garden fit for a civilized species.
As to religion, for decades now, I have expressed my viewpoint in what I call “Neil’s Three Precepts of Religion.” My first precept says: If you let me have my religion (or lack of it), I’ll let you have yours. My second: Each of us has the responsibility to form our own relationship to the source of our creativity. My third precept is a religious equivalent of Pauli’s Exclusion Principle: If two individuals have exactly the same religion, one of them is surplus to requirements. Otherwise put, if you’re going to have a religion, you must make sure it’s your religion, not someone else’s.
Thus, my religious views are agnostic, and based on tolerance of personal religion, but mistrust of institutional religion.
The Think dimension
In the Think dimension, classically Epistemology, there is one question to be answered: How do I know what I know? To which, I answer: I seek Knowledge by Identification. In this, I follow Jason Alexander’s definition of Knowledge: that is, the Identification of Identity.
As to how this process of Identification (which is also often called Reason) is supposed to work, I am again in broad agreement with Ayn Rand. Many of her views, in turn, were inherited from ancient Greek thinkers, particularly from the Stoics. I gave a diagram and an account of my views in the fourth of the set of six essays. So here, I will only summarize.
“Sensation” is the sub-process of our second dimension which receives, through our senses, the results of external stimuli. The sub-process of “perception” then assembles the sensations into percepts; that is, specific thoughts about things. From perception, thoughts pass upwards to “conception,” the sub-process which forms concepts. A concept is an abstraction or generalization, formed from a percept or from many percepts. The difference between percept and concept is rather like the difference between arithmetic and algebra!
Logic, the fourth sub-process, combines concepts, according to certain rules, to form other concepts. For the fifth sub-process, I now prefer to use Ayn Rand’s term, “Objectivity,” though I sometimes still call it “the bullshit meter.” It is the point in your thinking at which you ask: Do my conclusions hold up in the real world? And you look for evidence for and against your thesis. When your conclusions have successfully been through the validation process, you regard them as provisionally true, and add them to your store of Knowledge.
Myself, I add to the top of the stack a sixth sub-process, Science. I see science as a, more or less formalized, means of seeking knowledge. Its methodology is known as the scientific method. But it’s important to note that science, if it is to be Science, must be utterly honest. It must focus on the facts and on hard evidence. It must make falsifiable predictions. It must aim to be replicable by others. And it must make its theories fit observations, rather than to try to modify, adjust or cherry-pick the data to fit the theory. Anything – like much of today’s climate science – that purports to be science, but isn’t entirely honest, isn’t Science. It is what I call nonscience (rhymes with conscience).
Ideas which constitute Knowledge can themselves be pumped back into the Think stack, to fuel further thinking. These usually arrive at the level of Perception or Conception. They can be pumped from the inside – for example, from your creativity, or from your memory of past situations, or from knowledge which you have gleaned from personal experience. Or they can be pumped from the outside – by receiving them from others, for example by reading or hearing. They all require a pass through the bullshit meter, before you start building other ideas on top of them. If not, you may waste your time, or be led to wrong conclusions.
The Behave dimension
To the third dimension, Behave; classically, Ethics. As in the first, there are two questions to be answered, one general and one specific. The general question is: How should a conscious being behave? To that, I answer: According to its nature. That is, according to the nature of the species to which it belongs. This is the idea, which I earlier paraphrased as “Identity determines morality.” The specific question is: How should I, as an individual, behave? My answer is: According to human nature. That is, according to my nature as a human being.
The Renaissance, our third revolution of progress, helped us towards the goal of understanding ourselves, and so learning how to make ourselves convivial. And it loosened the shackles of religious orthodoxy, and gave us the chance to think for ourselves. But unfortunately, progress over the centuries since that time has been, to say the least, slow.
The ethical equality principle, the first of the three processes within this dimension, I state as follows: What is right for one to do, is right for another to do under similar circumstances, and vice versa. The principle arises from the premise that all individuals of a species have the same nature. And therefore, that what is right and wrong for each individual to do is the same for all individuals of the species. And this applies, in particular, to human beings.
This principle is radical. For once accepted, it instantly blows away the claims of moral superiority, that state functionaries and their hangers-on arrogate to themselves. If they have a right to make laws to bind me à la Bodin, says the ethical equality principle, I must have an equal and opposite right to make laws to bind them. If they are not bound by the laws they make (in essence, the argument Boris Johnson tried to use over the Partygate scandal), then I am not bound even by laws that I make, and certainly not by any of the bad “laws” they have made. If they have a right to grant privileges to their cronies, I must have an equal and opposite right to grant privileges to whomever I choose to. If they have a right to tax me, I must have an equal and opposite right to tax them. If the king can do no wrong, and state functionaries are not responsible for the effects of their actions on others, then I can do no wrong, and I have no responsibility for the effects on others of what I do to them. And so on.
A second consequence of the ethical equality principle is that for each species there must exist an ethical code of conduct, which encapsulates the behaviours which are right (and, implicitly or explicitly, the behaviours which are wrong) for members of that species. In particular, such a code must exist for human beings.
Since the product of the third dimension, for humans, is Conviviality (a word I have borrowed from Frank van Dun), I call this code the Convivial Code. And someone who keeps to this code, or at the very least strives always to keep to it, is a convivial human being. Otherwise put, they are fit to be lived with. But someone that fails to keep to this code, particularly if their failures are gross or persistent, I call a disconvivial individual. That is the equivalent, in the realm of conviviality, to a criminal today.
The Convivial Code encapsulates a minimum set of standards of behaviour for all human beings worth the name. It is, in essence, a touchstone for humanity. I do not underestimate the scale and difficulty of the tasks of constructing in detail, and getting agreement on, the initial version of the Code. But these are tasks which should only need to be done once. For since the source of the Code is human nature, it will need to change only so often as human nature itself changes, or new knowledge is gained about what it is. And both of these are infrequent. For that reason, within a timespan such as an individual’s lifetime, the Code will be applicable retrospectively, when and where that is appropriate.
The ethical equality principle does not tell us anything about what the Code actually consists of. That, we must approach by more conventional means of ethical study. Which I shall outline later in this essay.
But I will give you, at this point, John Locke’s simple and straightforward rendition of the Code. “Being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions.” So, no killing of human beings, no physical assaults, no infringing on others’ freedoms, and no stealing or destruction of property. There’s a lot more to the Code than that, of course. But I’ll take Locke’s version as a crude first approximation.
I’ll park the Code for now, and move to the second of the three processes in our third dimension: Honesty. Honesty is the centre-piece of our central dimension. It is the part of us which, more than any other, makes us convivial.
In the dictionary, “honest” can mean truthful, sincere and free of deceit; morally correct or virtuous; honourable in principles, intentions and actions; or trustworthy and not likely to steal, cheat or lie. It can also mean frank and straightforward in all your dealings. It can mean direct, open and forthright. It can mean objective, impartial and unbiased. It can mean, as Ayn Rand defined it, never attempting to fake reality. It is a word of many talents!
And then, there’s my own definition, which is all of the above and more. “Honesty is being true to your nature.” Honesty is behaving as is natural for a human being. Honesty is always striving to obey the Convivial Code, to the very best of your abilities.
Respect for rights
The third and final process in this dimension is respect for rights. Almost everyone would agree that all human beings have a set of rights, often called “human rights.” The US Declaration of Independence, for example, speaks of all men being endowed with “certain unalienable Rights,” among which are “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
There are, of course, many more human rights than just these. And there will be disagreements on precisely which “rights” are the valid ones. But behind the exact contents of the list of rights, there is a more fundamental question. This is: How are rights acquired?
There is a school of thought, which included the US founding fathers, who say that rights are granted by some deity or “creator.” I can’t accept this, because as an agnostic I require my philosophy to be independent of any particular religious belief system. Still less can I agree with the idea, sometimes touted by those on the political left, that rights are granted by government. The implication of this is that whatever government can grant, it can renege on. So, rendering the entire idea of human rights toothless and of no practical value at all.
My solution to this problem is a simple but radical one. For me, human rights are earned. An individual human being earns his or her human rights, by respecting the equal human rights of others. To the extent that an individual violates others’ rights, it is reasonable for those others, even if they are not themselves victims as individuals, to withdraw in reasonable proportion their respect for the rights of the violator. But those, who respect the human rights of all those who respect their own equal rights in return, show themselves to be human beings worth the name. And thereby, they have earned their own human rights in full. No-one – least of all government – should be allowed to take away even one jot or one tittle of these rights.
To sum up all this, I like to say: Human rights are for human beings.
Judgement by behaviour
Judgement by behaviour is an important adjunct to the three principles of ethical equality, honesty and respect for rights. It represents a practice of judging individuals by examining how they behave. It means that you should not take too much account of things outside an individual’s control, such as race, birthplace, social class, received religion or disability. You should simply ask: Is this individual’s conduct appropriate for a convivial human being? Thus, you should judge people by their actions. And, of course, their motivations for doing what they do, as far as you can work them out.
When properly applied, judgement by behaviour can release both judger and judged from many of the ills under which we suffer today. Racism, sexism and class divisions become very hard indeed to justify. Cultural, religious and even, in extremis, political barriers can also be broken down, provided neither party tries to impose on the other their particular view of the world, by browbeating, force or threat of force.
To sum up: It isn’t who someone is that matters, but only what they do. Otherwise put, human is as human does.
The convivial community
In any social system in which ethics drives social organization in a bottom-up way, there will arise, I think, a sense of fellow feeling among all those who strive to keep up to the ethical base. In my view, that fellow feeling will bring together all those who strive to behave convivially, that is, according to the nature of human beings. Good people will feel fellowship towards those who, like them, respect the ethical equality principle, are scrupulously honest in all their dealings with others, and respect the human rights of all those who respect their equal rights in return.
Thus Civilization, when properly implemented, supports a community – I call it the convivial community – of those who choose to behave up to the standards which are natural for human beings. What binds this community together is a shared willingness to behave convivially. And the walls of the community are the rules of behaviour, which I call the Convivial Code.
To show that I’m not merely talking through my proverbial hat, I will end this section with some words of John Locke, from §128 of his Second Treatise of Government. Of the individual under the law of Nature, he says: “By which law, common to them all, he and all the rest of mankind are one community, make up one society distinct from all other creatures. And were it not for the corruption and viciousness of degenerate men, there would be no need of any other, no necessity that men should separate from this great and natural community, and associate into lesser combinations.”
So, my “convivial community” and John Locke’s “great and natural community” are identical. And if it wasn’t for the corrupt, vicious, degenerate men (and women) that exist among us, we wouldn’t have any need to divide ourselves into separate groups, or to confine different groups inside their own arbitrary geographical borders. We wouldn’t need nation-states or politics, we wouldn’t need governments as they exist today, and we sure as hell wouldn’t need politicians or any of their hangers-on.
The Organize dimension
In our fourth dimension, there is one question to answer. This is: How should we organize ourselves for maximum benefit to all? Notice, if you will, the difference between the “I” in “How should I behave?” and the “we” in this question. The boundary between the third dimension and the fourth is the line at which the “I” of Conviviality shades into the “we” of Civilization.
The Enlightenment, our fourth revolution of progress, taught us that the human individual is paramount, and human societies can only flourish when the rights of all individuals are honoured. In particular, government must be organized for the benefit of, and with the consent of, the governed. And it must be for the benefit of all the governed, “as far as by common rules it can be provided for.”
In this fourth dimension, there are four processes. I list these as: voluntary society, common-sense justice, upholding human rights, and maximizing freedom.
The voluntary society principle
The first process of our fourth dimension, the voluntary society principle, I state as: All societies must be voluntary.
In order to explain the consequences of this idea, I must first make clear the distinction between a community and a society. A community is a group of people, who are bound together by some shared characteristic; but not necessarily by anything more. A society, on the other hand, is a group of people who have agreed to join together in a common cause. Examples of communities are the people who live or work (or both) in a particular town, and the convivial community which I described above. Examples of societies are a football club, a musical ensemble, or a political party.
A society has some form of, usually written, constitution. Among much else, this will state the goals of the members as a group. The society is likely to have a president or chairman, and a committee of officials. Under its constitution, the society makes decisions based on its principles and interests, and acts on them. Even though some of its members may disagree on an issue, the society as a whole takes only one view. Thus, a society may be considered to have what Jean-Jacques Rousseau called a “general will.”
A community, in contrast, is simply a group of people bound together by some common characteristic. A community has no constitution. It has no president or chairman, no officials and no goals as a group. It may spawn societies, which act in certain respects for all those in the community; such as an association acting on behalf of the flat owners in a block of flats. But the members of a community have no “general will,” beyond a shared desire to make the community as good a place as possible for all those in it.
To return to the voluntary society principle. I found explicit support for it in a place I didn’t fully expect: the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Article 20(2) states: “No one may be compelled to belong to an association.” I think that those who wrote this probably had in mind “societies” like the Hitler Youth. But their words have force against any society, that tries to compel people to be or to become members of it, and to behave according to the tenets and ideology of those who run that society.
Rejecting the “social contract” fiction
This distinction between society and community is not often made by political philosophers. Even John Locke did not make it. Indeed, he frequently used the words “society” and “community” (as well as “commonwealth”) in a way that made them all but interchangeable.
Nevertheless, I consider the distinction to be extremely important. I take the view that the people who inhabit a specific geographical area, for example a village, a town, a city or the territory claimed by a state, are not a society, but only a community. For not all of them have chosen to sign up to the goals and principles of any one particular society. And therefore, they cannot rightly be compelled to obey the rules of any particular society. In religion, in politics, in diet or in anything else. In particular, they cannot rightly be compelled to be members of a political society, or to obey rules set by any such society.
Enter the “social contract” fiction. This was, so it seems, invented in the 17th century by Thomas Hobbes. According to this fiction, at some time in the past, a group of people (or, at least, a majority of them) consented to be ruled over despotically by an absolute sovereign. They committed to each other, that they would authorize and approve whatever the sovereign chose to do. Moreover, once the system has been set up, there is no possibility of changing it, or of escape from it. This extremely dangerous fiction was, unfortunately, taken on board even by later revolutionary thinkers of the Enlightenment, including John Locke. And it still persists today.
This fiction has led to an idea accepted by far too many, that there is something called “society” in the singular, to which everyone in a particular area – such as the territory claimed by a nation state – belongs, whether they want to or not. According to the narrative, all of us have agreed to an implied contract, that makes us part of this “society,” and thus subjects of a Hobbesian sovereign. This, in turn, makes us subject to a political government, and to the decrees of its leaders and officials for the time being.
But wait a moment… This social contract narrative is simply absurd. Even if my ancestors might have subscribed to such a thing (and, as far as I know, they didn’t), I as an individual have never agreed to any social contract! Where is my signature on any such damn thing? Moreover, where are the statements of the benefits I am supposed to get from it, and the procedures for me to get justice and redress if the government party fails to deliver?
Besides, what honest, truthful, productive human being would ever want to join a society run by the present breed of lying, scamming politicians? Come to think of it, why should any human being worth the name want to join any society that would even accept any of those scumbag politicians, or their thieving, destructive cronies, as members?
And it gets worse. If there is no “society” in the singular, then how can there be any meaning at all to glib phrases like “social justice” and “social security,” so beloved of those on the political left? Are these concepts, perhaps, no more than attempts by the politically rich to fool us, the politically poor, into supporting their immoral and destructive schemes?
This “social contract” narrative is not only absurd, but has been foisted on us human beings fraudulently, by those that do not have our interests at heart.
John Locke’s view
I shall now give you some important quotations from John Locke’s First and Second Treatises of Government.
In his Second Treatise (§4), he started from a view of humans being naturally in “a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of Nature. A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another.” So, in Locke’s natural law, the way in which all human beings are equal is that they are politically equal.
And of this law of Nature, he says: “The state of Nature has a law of Nature to govern it, which obliges every one, and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions.”
He also understood that, among those genetically human, some fail to keep to this law of Nature. They kill people, or injure them, or try to enslave them or otherwise take away their freedoms, or steal from them, or defraud them, or damage or destroy their property. To counter the dangers posed by these individuals, he posits (§95) that a group of people may choose to form a “political society.” This they do “by agreeing to join and unite into a community for their comfortable, safe and peaceable living.” This is Locke’s idea of a social contract. But he is very clear about the purposes of such an agreement. “The great and chief end, therefore, of men uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government,” he says in §124, “is the preservation of their property.” And in §57: “The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.”
Moreover, he cautions in §12 that “a great part of the municipal laws of countries” are no more than “the fancies and intricate contrivances of men, following contrary and hidden interests put into words.” And such laws are “only so far right as they are founded on the law of Nature.”
Of governments, he says in §135: “Their power in the utmost bounds of it is limited to the public good of the society. It is a power that hath no other end but preservation, and therefore can never have a right to destroy, enslave, or designedly to impoverish the subjects.” And the “public good” he defines in the First Treatise, §92: “the good of every particular member of that society, as far as by common rules it can be provided for.”
In §140 of the Second Treatise, he addresses taxation. “It is true governments cannot be supported without great charge, and it is fit every one who enjoys his share of the protection should pay out of his estate his proportion for the maintenance of it.” I read this as meaning that each individual should pay, for any period in which government defends his assets, in proportion to the benefit he receives from that protection. And I read “out of his estate his proportion” as saying that what he is expected to pay should be in direct proportion to his total wealth. That means, the only tax should be what would today be called a fixed-rate wealth tax. So, there should be no taxes on incomes or on transactions, no taxes at all on the very poorest, and very definitely no impositions on some kinds of people but not others! As Locke says in §142: “One rule for rich and poor, for the favourite at Court, and the countryman at plough.”
In §149, he says of government power: “All power given with trust for the attaining an end being limited by that end, whenever that end is manifestly neglected or opposed, the trust must necessarily be forfeited, and the power devolve into the hands of those that gave it.” Further, the people always retain “a supreme power to remove or alter the legislative, when they find the legislative act contrary to the trust reposed in them.”
In §199, he speaks of tyranny. “Tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, which nobody can have a right to.” He describes two aspects of tyranny. First: “making use of the power any one has in his hands, not for the good of those who are under it, but for his own private, separate advantage.” And second: “when the governor, however entitled, makes not the law, but his will, the rule, and his commands and actions are not directed to the preservation of the properties of his people, but the satisfaction of his own ambition, revenge, covetousness, or any other irregular passion.”
Moreover, he says in §201: “Wherever the power that is put in any hands for the government of the people and the preservation of their properties is applied to other ends, and made use of to impoverish, harass or subdue them to the arbitrary and irregular commands of those that have it, there it presently becomes tyranny.”
He says in §221: “The legislative acts against the trust reposed in them when they endeavour to invade the property of the subject, and to make themselves, or any part of the community, masters or arbitrary disposers of the lives, liberties or fortunes of the people.” And they are entitled (§222) “to resume their original liberty.”
And Locke is very clear and forthright, when he says in §225: “But if a long train of abuses, prevarications and artifices, all tending the same way, make the design visible to the people, and they cannot but feel what they lie under, and see whither they are going, it is not to be wondered that they should then rouse themselves, and endeavour to put the rule into such hands which may secure to them the ends for which government was at first erected.”
Good and bad laws
To apply John Locke’s insights to our situation today. Are the laws, that are being made by political governments today, directed towards the preservation of our property? Are they being made for the public good, that is, the good of every single individual among the governed, as far as it can be maintained by common rules? Or are they being used to impoverish us, to harass us, for the “private advantage” of those in power, or to subdue us to their wills or their “irregular passions?” Are these laws being made to preserve and enlarge our freedom, or to restrain or even to abolish it?
Further, is everyone paying taxes in direct proportion to the benefit they receive from government, and no more? Or are tax laws being used to favour certain interests or agendas, against the interests of the rest of us?
Now, there do exist some good laws on statute books all over the world. Against murder, for example. Or rape, or other violent aggression. Or theft, or fraud, or property destruction; or stalking. Such laws, when properly defined and implemented, can help to protect our rights such as life, property, security of person and privacy. Good laws can also serve to protect our freedoms, by preventing others from putting obstacles in the way of us exercising them. Such freedoms include: A general presumption of liberty of choice and of action. Freedom of movement. Freedom of religion. Freedom of opinion, expression and communication. And the right of parents to choose how their children are to be educated.
Now, if you will, please take a few moments to review my first essay in this set. In just the first few hundred words there, I gave many examples of our rights and freedoms being violated by governments, in the UK and elsewhere. In the main part of that essay, I recounted the “long train of abuses, prevarications and artifices, all tending the same way” that has been used to build up the spectre of an, in reality non-existent, “climate emergency.” This emergency, so its supporters claim, demands “action” up to and including the destruction of human industrial civilization. And towards the end, I made a list, based on the UN Declaration of Human Rights, of some of our rights and freedoms, which are particularly under threat from government today.
Here is a paraphrase of that list, with a few recent examples added.
Our privacy is in tatters. We are stalked by cameras recording where we go, and our on-line activity is monitored and recorded. Our freedom of movement has been unreasonably limited, with the threat posed by COVID used as a lame excuse. Further, more and more local authorities are making it harder to drive in and around our cities, with traffic controls, punitive charges and restrictions springing up everywhere without any objective justification or meaningful consultation. And even bigger violations are now planned, such as forbidding residents of cities like Oxford to drive their cars out of their immediate neighbourhoods.
Tax laws have been made that unfairly harm certain groups of people. (Including me.) These have also violated the right to free choice of employment. And most of what we are forced to pay in taxation simply disappears into the maw of the state and its cronies and hangers-on. Only a small part of it comes back to us in the form of services we actually want.
Our freedoms of opinion and expression are under very serious threat. And social media and Internet censorship are being introduced via a so-called “on-line safety” bill. Moreover, our freedoms of association and peaceful assembly have been gravely curtailed.
Moreover, governments are violating equality before the law, and so trashing the rule of law. (Think Partygate).
Furthermore, they are failing to allow a fair and public hearing of accusations made against us (such as being responsible for “global warming”), or an independent and impartial tribunal to judge such accusations. And they do not respect the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and the guarantees necessary for us to be able to defend ourselves.
Edmund Burke, almost a century after Locke, told us, rightly, that “Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.” It is clear, beyond all doubt, that many if not most of the laws being made by political governments today are bad laws. As John Locke would say, they are “the fancies and intricate contrivances of men.” If not also tyranny, fuelled by “private, separate advantage,” “covetousness,” “irregular passion,” or all three.
These bad laws, not being founded on or even related to the behaviours natural to human beings, are therefore wrong to impose on human beings. Promoting, actively supporting, making or enforcing such laws, far from being valid things for government to do, are actually real wrongdoings. They are disconvivial acts; or, in common parlance, crimes.
The second process in our fourth dimension is the common-sense justice principle. I state it as follows: Every individual deserves to be treated, over the long run, in the round and as far as practicable, as he or she treats others. Thus, common-sense justice is individual justice. As with ethical equality, this principle at first sight looks obvious; and clearly fair, to boot.
Some view this idea as like the slightly scary figure of “Mrs. Be-done-by-as-you-did” in Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies. Or the vision of the prophet Obadiah: “As thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head.” But the principle also implies that if you don’t do, or seek to do, harm to innocent people, you don’t deserve to suffer harms being done to you. On the other side, if you do harm to others, or seek to do harm to others, or to impose on others unreasonable risks of harm, then you should be required to compensate those you harmed, and if appropriate to be punished in proportion to the seriousness of what you did. So, why should anyone feel scared by this principle, unless they have done a wrong, or wrongs, they feel a need to hide?
The principle, also, has radical repercussions. For it blows away two more pillars of the political state, beyond those already knocked over by the ethical equality principle. These are the ideas of sovereign immunity and “the king can do no wrong.” Indeed, since a wrongdoer that has had political power is likely to have done more harm than those who have not, the (formerly) powerful will often be the hardest hit by stringent application of the principle.
Common-sense justice teams up with the “judgement by behaviour” idea I discussed above. Together, they provide an ideal of justice, in which what matters is not who an individual is, but only what they do (and, on some occasions, their motives for doing it). It doesn’t (or shouldn’t) matter what colour someone’s skin is. It doesn’t matter where they were born. It doesn’t matter what religion they were brought up in. It doesn’t matter what their gender or their sexual preferences may be. All that matters are their actions and their intent towards others. Thus, under common-sense justice, everyone is truly “equal before the law.”
And when common-sense justice is translated into the economic sphere, I like to summarize its effects in an aphorism only one word different from an infamous slogan popularized by Karl Marx. Here’s my version: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his deserts.” Now that’s justice!
It is with the process of common-sense justice that that the idea of a new form of governance, to supersede the political state, first comes into view. I call my proposed system “just governance,” and I will give a brief outline a little later. The primary function of just governance will be to deliver common-sense justice to all those who require it, and to all those that deserve it.
Moreover, when an ideal of common-sense justice is in place, I expect it to lead to a far better tone of life than we have today. For, if you want to be treated better by others, all you have to do is find a way to treat others better!
Upholding human rights
The third process in our fourth dimension is upholding human rights. Beyond the delivery of common-sense justice, the major secondary function of just governance will be to uphold the rights of all convivial human beings. That is, to uphold the rights of all those who respect the equal rights of others.
These rights will, of course, include all the rights and freedoms I listed in my discussion on good laws, above. But there will be a whole lot more. I envisage these rights as being defined by, or as I like to put it “back-to-backed” with, the obligations of the Convivial Code.
The fourth and last process in our fourth dimension is maximizing freedom. I like to put this as “maximum freedom for everyone, consistent with living in a civilized community.” And maximum freedom for an individual is, of course, conditional on that individual respecting the equal rights of others. Just governance will be able, much like today’s systems, to place restrictions on the freedoms of those that have been proven to have committed a disconvivial act or acts, in proportion to the severity of the act or acts.
There will also be a general presumption of freedom. The Convivial Code will contain, as far as feasible, all the known prohibitions against disconvivial behaviour. Anything not prohibited will be allowed, unless it violates others’ rights, or causes or is intended to cause unjust harm to others. To sum this up: Except where countermanded by justice, the Convivial Code or respect for rights, every individual is free to choose and act as he or she wishes.
Just governance is my design for a new form of governance to supersede the political state. I see its remit as to enable people to live together in an environment of peace and tranquillity, common-sense justice, and maximum rights and freedom for every individual. In particular, just governance will not allow anyone to try to impose, by browbeating, force or threat of force, any particular political or religious ideology on others.
I described just governance at some length in the fifth essay of my set of six. The following section consists mainly of extracts from that essay, which summarize the main features.
The primary function of just governance will be provision of common-sense justice to all. Maintenance of peace and tranquillity, and the upholding of the human rights of all those who respect others’ equal rights, are also important functions. And just governance will allow maximum freedom for everyone, consistent with living in a civilized community.
In practical terms, the aim of just governance will be to minimize injustice. It will seek to avoid any gross or persistent treatment of individuals worse than they treat others.
Just governance will also include strong quality assurance on its own processes. And, it will need some subsidiary functions, such as diplomacy with other just governances and, for a time, with legacy states.
Put succinctly, just governance will be governance of convivial people, by convivial people, for convivial people. It will govern communities of individuals, in much the same way as a referee governs a football match. It will also adjudicate as needed on the relationships between those individuals, the voluntary societies to which they belong, and other individuals and societies they interact with.
Just governance will have no legislative
Crucially, just governance will not have any permanent legislative. For its code of law, the Convivial Code, comes from human nature, not from edicts made by political elites. Thus, once it has been specified and agreed, it will need to change only so often as human nature itself changes, or new knowledge is gained about what it is.
Any proposed variations to the Code will need to go through an exhaustive and public change control process. Comparable, perhaps, in difficulty with getting an amendment agreed to the US constitution. Furthermore, when the Code is updated, all parties to contracts must agree if they wish to move to the new version; if not, they will stay with the old.
The character of just governance
Just governance will be bottom-up and de-politicized. It will focus on the individual, and on small communities. And it will not allow any political or religious ideology or agenda to be imposed on any of the governed against their wills.
In structure, it will be like a network, not a hierarchy. It will have no central or commanding point, at which undue concentration of political power can collect. Except in clear emergency, it will be reactive rather than pro-active. And it will have no mechanisms to enable one interest group unjustly to override the interests of others.
Just governance will never interfere in matters like religion, personal health, education or welfare, that are outside its remit. Moreover, it will not seek to control or to meddle with economic activity in any way. It will not interfere with any activity, unless there is reasonable suspicion of rights violation, fraud or actual harm being done to someone; or of intention to violate rights, to defraud or to cause harm; or of criminal negligence; or of recklessness beyond the bounds of reason.
Just governance must work, initially, in a defined geographical territory. However, I want it to be adaptable to a future non-territorial system, in which governance companies will compete for individual customers in the free market, as insurance companies do today. And I want it to be able to adapt as people move in or out of communities, or as the population of an area rises or falls, or as tastes change. So, I envisage that, at need, communities or neighbourhoods will be able to amalgamate or split.
Moreover, the de-centralized and networked nature of just governance should enable it to be scaled up to areas inhabited by hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of people. Eventually, so I foresee, it can grow to become world-wide. But this will not be a “world government,” or anything like it. Its growth and its modus operandi will be bottom-up like the Internet, not top-down like the European Union or United Nations.
The judicial function
The primary institutions of just governance will be judicial, including impartial arbitration of disputes and assessment of externalities and risks. The major institution will be courts of just governance.
Where will the authority of just governance come from? Why should convivial people obey and uphold its judgements? The answer must be, that the decisions it makes must be accepted by very many convivial people. The common-sense nature of the justice principle will play a large part in this. But just governance must also operate in a way which is objective, thorough, impartial, and totally honest; and which ensures that everything it does, it does in good faith. Ultimately, the authority of just governance can only come from its impartiality, its objectivity, its honesty, and the common-sense nature of its principles.
Furthermore, just governance must always seek the truth of the matter, and weigh the evidence on both sides. It must always place the burden of proof on the side demanding action from governance; and most of all, if they seek to restrict anyone’s rights or freedoms. It must be quantitative where necessary. It must assure rights such as due process, a fair hearing, and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. It must keep meticulous records, and make them open to public inspection. And it must not allow its processes to be influenced by lies, hype or agendas of any kind. Indeed, the judicial function in just governance will not be so different from the best justice systems extant today. Except, of course, that just governance will be entirely free from all politics.
As far as detailed legal procedures are concerned, I see no reason why existing mechanisms should not continue locally, as long as they are honest and consistent with the Convivial Code. For example, juries will continue to be used where they have traditionally been used.
Moreover, under just governance, the procedural rights, which parties have when accused in a court of just governance, will be extended to all confrontational situations, even those in which just governance itself is not directly involved. For example, disciplinary hearings at work must assure due process, fair hearing and presumption of innocence, just as they would be assured in a court of just governance.
Restorative and retributive justice
As in today’s legal systems, I expect there will be a separation between two areas of justice. On the one hand, arbitration and restorative justice; that is, the resolution of disputes, and the calculation and ordering of restitution for wrongs. And on the other hand, criminal or retributive justice.
I expect that restorative justice in just governance will be similar to the equivalent in the best legal systems in place today; except that it will be totally non-politicized. It will enable those who have unjustly suffered objective, quantifiable wrongs to claim compensation from the perpetrators of the wrongs. Failure to act, where this failure causes damage to another, can also be taken into account. I expect that, as today, restitutions will usually be financial. Just governance will have power to confiscate and sell assets for the purpose of compensating victims. Those without sufficient resources (money or assets) to pay the restitutions may be subjected to an indenture on their future earnings.
Retributive justice, on the other hand, will subject the perpetrators of disconvivial acts not only to orders for restitution to the victims where appropriate, but also to penalties comparable to criminal punishments today. But, unlike today’s systems, I expect that these penalties will be reserved for cases in which the perpetrator, in addition to acting disconvivially, shows mens rea, the “guilty mind.” There must be bad faith; or intent to violate rights, cause harm or damage; or criminal negligence; or irresponsibility beyond the bounds of reason. The old adage will always apply: “No punishment without guilt.”
As to the criminal penalties which may be imposed, I expect that these will almost never be of a financial nature. Nor will the punishments be physical, unless the crime is reckoned sufficiently heinous, or the perpetrator sufficiently dangerous to others, to justify imprisonment. And where it is necessary to withdraw a right (such as freedom of movement) as part of a criminal penalty, the withdrawal can only be temporary, for a stated period. Thus, there will be no death penalty for common crimes.
Those guilty of political crimes that result in death or deaths of innocent people, on the other hand, do deserve the death penalty. In particular, any politician, military official or military supplier that promoted, actively supported, or took part in warlike acts of aggression against innocent people, such as the Western invasion of Iraq, air strikes in Syria, or the Russian invasion of Ukraine, deserves death. Preferably, at the hands of the relatives and friends of the victims of those acts of aggression.
Where neither death nor imprisonment is appropriate, then since it is the mind which has committed an offence, it is the mind that should be punished. Thus, most criminal punishments are likely to be demeaning rather than debilitating; successors, maybe, to the stocks of Tudor England. They will be accompanied by publication of a formal statement of the crime, in order to allow those who so wish to choose to ostracize the criminal.
Another old adage which will apply is: “The punishment must always fit the crime.” And not just in terms of proportionality to the seriousness of the offence. The type of the punishment should be strongly influenced, or even determined, by the type of the offence.
Externalities and risk
Another aspect of the judicial function will be to make objective assessments of actual or alleged externalities (side effects), such as pollution or noise, which cause, or can reasonably be expected to cause, damage to others. If appropriate, those that cause such externalities will be made to compensate the individuals and groups affected by the damage they caused, each in proportion to the amount of harm they suffer. In extreme cases, an activity, that causes externalities greater than the benefits it brings to those who do it, could be banned altogether.
Then there is risk. One principle, which will be included in the Convivial Code, is that those doing activities which cause risks to others must be required to have sufficient resources available (for example, through insurance) to be able to compensate those harmed, if damage does result from the risk. But beyond this, the judicial function will be able to analyze and assess actual or alleged risks, in much the same way as for externalities. The analysis must be objective, impartial, honest, quantitative and rigorous, and will assess the cost and benefit effects on the individuals and groups on both sides of the risks.
Appeals and pardons
I envisage that there will be an appeal procedure, in the event of a party being aggrieved by a decision. But there will be no pre-chosen final arbiter, such as a supreme court. Instead, there will be a limit on the number of times a decision can be taken to appeal. It will also be possible for the quality control function of just governance to order a review of a decision.
Just governance will not issue pardons without a good reason. The only way in which a pardon can be issued, will be through a court decision. Though a court will be able to lessen or set aside criminal punishments out of clemency, if the situation objectively warrants it.
Secondary aims and functions
The secondary aims of just governance are upholding human rights, and allowing maximum freedom for everyone. That freedom, of course, must be tempered by individual responsibility for the effects of willed actions on others. Under just governance, everyone will be held accountable for the reasonably foreseeable effects of their willed actions on others.
The function that upholds rights would correspond, in today’s terms, to a police force. I envisage that there will be people trained and paid to do this function; and they would do many of the things police today do. Such as check out incidents, investigate possible crimes, and bring perpetrators to justice for trial. In addition, every adult will have the right to arrest anyone they reasonably suspect of a real wrongdoing, and bring them to justice. But except in clear emergency, just governance will be reactive rather than pro-active. In particular, it will not send agents to lie in wait on the off chance that someone may break some petty rule.
Other aspects of the upholding rights function would be the emergency services which today are often required, with or without police, at or after incidents. Under the same heading, when required, would come dealing with disasters such as floods, and defence against invaders, military aggressors and violent gangs. I envisage that volunteers would be trained and retained to take on such functions, if and when they become necessary.
Local and emergency rules
There will, at times and in places, be a need to make what I call “local rules.” These are sane, sensible, non-politicized conventions for the benefit of all users of the public space (that is, space open to all) in the local area. For example, rules of priority for traffic junctions. But local rules must be kept to a minimum. Any proposed new local rules must be submitted to a court for consideration. And any disputes over local rules will be heard by a court in the normal way.
There may also be a need to make temporary rules in the event of a clear emergency, such as a flood or an epidemic. The scope of such rules must be as limited as possible. And objective, rigorous risk assessments and cost-benefit analyses must be done on the effects of the rules, both positive and negative. Any such rule, that has not been rigorously justified within a very short period of its introduction, must be struck down. Further, all such rules must be regularly audited. And any rule that is shown to have failed to deliver the benefits promised from it, or is no longer delivering the benefits promised for it, must also be struck down.
I have described, above, the three major functions of just governance: delivering justice, upholding rights and maximizing freedom for all. But there are at least two supporting functions in addition.
The first of these is quality control. This must maintain a constant ethical watch on the actions of governance as a whole, and of the individuals who constitute it. It could include psychological testing of those, such as judges and assessors, whose power if misused could lead to miscarriages of justice. The quality control function must also assure that the functions of governance are being performed as they should be. If things are not being done up to standard, matters can be sent to a court for review. The quality control function will also be involved in the appeals procedure.
The second supporting function is co-ordination, as needed, with other governances. Bearing in mind the need to be able to govern a wide area without there being a point at which power can collect, and the need – for a time – for just governance to co-exist with legacy states, I envisage some form of diplomatic function. This would maintain relations with, and negotiate as needed with, other governances on matters which affect both parties, such as the planning and development of proposed new infrastructure.
A possible structure for just governance
I am well aware that to try to specify in detail how just governance will work is a bit Utopian. This section, therefore, puts forward a few off-the-wall ideas for how things might work. It surely will be subject to change during development!
Just governance will be, by design, de-centralized. The communities, in which the governed live, will be small enough to produce diverse “flavours” of community for people of different tastes. I have in mind a town or small city, with a population range of a few thousands up to perhaps a hundred thousand. Economically, different communities will tend to specialize in different things. So, there will be much trade, both between neighbouring communities and between those further apart.
Moreover, free movement will be the norm. Change of residence, while requiring agreement from those in the receiving neighbourhood, will be easy enough that dis-satisfied convivial people can choose to move to places more congenial to them. Visitors, who behave convivially, will be free to go anywhere in the public space they wish. And temporary, periodic and permanent migration will be controlled only at the lowest, neighbourhood, level.
The institutions of just governance, too, will be built from the bottom up. I envisage, first, local or neighbourhood organizations, on a scale of a few hundred people. And second, community organizations, on the scale of a town or small city. There will also be governance institutions, which can provide services on a wider basis than just a single community.
On the few occasions on which a larger scale of agreement and co-operation is necessary between neighbouring communities – for example, fighting a defensive war, or agreeing on what infrastructure is to be developed – this will be accomplished through alliances. These alliances may be ad-hoc and temporary, or longer-lasting. And in them, representatives of the different communities will work for the benefit of all they govern.
The institutions will be divided, I think, between those whose services must be local to a particular community, and those providing services on a wider geographical scale. Both will be project management and contracting organizations. I envisage that they will have few direct employees. Instead, they will source staff as needed from pools of suitably skilled and qualified individuals; who may either be independents, or work for skill-based agencies.
On the wider scale, I expect the services to include: Judges and arbitrators. Detectives. Risk and cost-benefit assessors. Diplomats and negotiators. And quality auditors. The people who do these jobs will work, at different times, on behalf of different communities. Judges in particular, I expect, will travel from place to place, as they used to in the days of assizes. And quality auditors will most likely be senior individuals assigned from another branch of just governance (such as judges or assessors) to a particular community for a fixed term.
At the community level, I expect the services to include: Police (except detectives), firemen, paramedics and other first responders. Maintaining a capability for military defence. Making and administering local (and, at need, emergency) rules as required. Providing premises and support staff for courts of just governance. And maintaining pre-existing infrastructure in the public space, such as roads and footpaths.
I envisage that the neighbourhood of just governance (NJG) will be a voluntary society in a neighbourhood of a few hundred people, for those who take an interest in just governance locally. Its main functions will be to conserve the special characteristics of the local area, and to assess possible changes to it. All local planning decisions will be taken at the NJG level, except those which also impact other neighbourhoods in the community. Assessing the suitability of potential incoming migrants, permanent or temporary, will also be done at the NJG level. And I expect it will be possible for NJGs to amalgamate via “friendly union,” or to split via “friendly secession,” as circumstances demand.
Interested people in the neighbourhood will meet regularly to discuss matters affecting their neighbourhood. They will make decisions by what is in essence direct democracy. The NJG as an institution will probably be closer to an area residents’ association than anything else that exists today. The members of the NJG will choose representatives to uphold the interests of the people in the neighbourhood in discussions at the next, community, level.
I envisage the community of just governance (CJG) to be a unit large enough to be economically viable in the free market. (This is not the same thing as being self-sufficient without outside trade; that would require a far larger unit.) I expect its usual size to be in the tens of thousands of people. I expect that CJGs, too, could amalgamate or split as needed.
I envisage that CJGs will probably be non-profit companies. I expect the remit of a CJG to be closer to that of a town council than anything else today. It might well be headed by a mayor.
I would expect the CJG, first, to organize those functions of just governance which must be delivered at the local level, such as first response to incidents, and local military defence where necessary. Second, to make “local rules” which are appropriate to the area; and, in an emergency situation, to make rules for dealing with the emergency in the community. And third, to maintain the local infrastructure.
In addition to the regular discussions on CJG-level matters among the representatives from the NJGs, I expect there would be periodic (probably yearly) meetings open to all community residents, something like a New England open town meeting. One of the likely functions of the town meeting would be to elect the mayor, and to elect those who will represent the CJG in any alliances or negotiations with other governances which may be necessary.
The wider level
The institution which I expect to deliver those services of just governance which can be managed and delivered from outside any particular CJG, I have dubbed the Society for Just Governance (SJG). An SJG will probably be a non-profit company. It will be the nearest equivalent in just governance to a government today. It will be a project management and contracting organization, using externally sourced skills, such as detectives, judges, diplomats and quality auditors, to do the work. It will compete with other SJGs in the free market.
It is important to note that SJGs will not be territorial. In that way, they will be like insurance companies, not like political states.
At any time, an SJG will govern one or more CJGs. A CJG will be able to switch SJGs, subject to reasonable notice. And ideally, in the longer term, NJGs or even individual households should be able to select which SJG they prefer; just as people today can choose their supplier for their home contents insurance.
How to pay for just governance
Next, a thorny issue: How should just governance be paid for? In my view, what an individual is expected to pay for just governance should be in proportion to the benefit he or she gets from it. I see the benefits provided by just governance – for example, protection of property – as being in direct proportion to the individual’s total wealth. Thus, periodic payments should be in proportion to the individual’s total wealth at the time.
I did a back-of-an-envelope calculation, which suggested that (as of 2017) just over 10 per cent of UK government spending goes on core governance functions, such as courts, police and military defence. This gives a ball-park figure for the expected costs of just governance; though I would hope that, with stringent auditing, those costs could be reduced further.
Of the remaining government functions, those services which are necessary, but not part of core governance – such as welfare, pensions, health care and education – need to be de-politicized, with control being passed to those who provide those services. And new, just and more flexible financial arrangements will have to be devised. Development of new infrastructure will also need to be reviewed. I would expect that, under just governance, most new infrastructure would be paid for by user fees, such as tolls.
As an important feature of the system of payment for just governance, there will be no taxes on incomes or on transactions. Nor will there be any re-distributory or confiscatory taxation.
Money and currency
Money, in some form, is vital to the functioning of any economy. And the broader the range of skills and interests among those taking part in an economy, the more vital money becomes.
Who should be able to issue money under just governance? I confess I’m in two minds about this question. It’s tempting to answer, anyone who has the resources to honour the money they issue. That would be, in essence, a return to the early days of banking. But might it not lead to a cacophony of competing currencies, which could easily descend into chaos whenever an issuer fails, and their money becomes worthless?
On the other hand, it occurs to me that a convenient way to finance just governance might be to have a single currency, shared by an alliance of CJGs. (Which I might as well call an AJG, or Alliance for Just Governance.) And then, to allow the currency to be inflated by a fixed, small amount each month or year. This should ensure that the periodic payments for just governance are in direct proportion to the value of assets denominated in that currency. In the process, it would do away with taxation, as it exists today, altogether!
I extended my back-of-the-envelope calculation for the UK in 2017, suggesting that all the protective functions of just governance could be covered by inflating the currency at about 1.3% per year (at a historical average of GDP to wealth). Or 1.5% per year to cover all functions of just governance.
As a wild shot at a potential solution, consider the following. Banks for Just Governance (BJGs) would issue currencies. These currencies would probably be linked to the values of suitable baskets of commodities, which may include precious metals. Beyond changes in the commodity prices, a BJG would be allowed to inflate its currency each year by a percentage sufficient to cover the needs of the CJGs it serves. Each year, each CJG town meeting should be able to elect its BJG (and so currency) for the subsequent year. The proceeds of the inflation they have authorized would then be passed each month to the CJGs to cover their operating expenses.
I can see, in my mind’s eye, economists shaking their heads at such a wild idea. But can anyone out there come up with a better one?
The Do dimension
The final dimension, Do, is where we get things done. As I said earlier: What Creativity creates, Economics exchanges, and Aesthetics appreciates.
The single most important attribute of this dimension will be the economic free market, supported by just governance from the fourth dimension. In a truly free market, no-one is prevented from justly acquiring, or justly using, wealth. There are no arbitrary barriers or obstacles to the provision of goods or services. There are no arbitrary restrictions on what, or with whom, individuals or societies may trade – or, indeed, not trade if they so choose. There are no tariffs on goods or services crossing arbitrary boundaries. And there are no taxes beyond what is strictly necessary to support the framework of just governance, which underlies the free market.
I expect that there will be a very diverse mix of economic actors. While there will still be some large companies, the political privileges that protected them from smaller competitors will have been taken away. I expect many new, small, nimble companies to arise. The one-person business, far from being discouraged or all but banned as is the case today, will become a new normal for people who like to be independent. Indeed, many people who play important roles in just governance – even judges – will be independents. And older forms of business, such as the family business, the partnership and the co-operative, I expect to gain new leases of life.
As to energy: Abundant, affordable, reliable energy is a necessity for a productive economy. Energy resources, along with other natural resources, will continue to be used; very much so! But they will be used wisely.
I expect working patterns in the new world to be more flexible than today. In particular, the “job for life” will become unusual. People will need to be more open to learning new skills, and I expect a new adult education market to arise to meet this need. Far more jobs will be oriented around projects, lasting a few days, weeks or months, and far less around continuous processes. Many people will work less hours, but will use them more intensely. Working from home will become commonplace, though the current over-emphasis on it, I think, will prove to have been a passing fad. And automation and artificial intelligence will prove to have been beneficial in the long term – though there will have been some teething troubles!
As to welfare, I envisage a sustainable system, which can help those who are poor through no fault of their own, while allowing everyone to get on with their lives in their own way. I think it will have four main components. The first is savings. The second is insurance. Third comes the implementation of systems of mutual aid; perhaps through re-vitalization of friendly societies, or creation of modern versions of them. Fourth is a revival of civil society, in which people look out for their neighbours, and in which there is personal contact between helpers and helped. And as a final backstop, particularly in cases of unexpected emergency, there is always voluntary charity.
I make no apologies for ending this section with an extravagant vision of the future. I wrote this way back in 2004, but I haven’t been able to find any better way to put it. Here it is:
“Picture, if you will, a rolling, grassy plain. And, standing on that plain, many human beings. A few hundred, or a thousand, should suffice. Imagine if each of those people, on that rolling plain, takes in light, and gives out light in return. If each of them gives out less light than he or she receives, the economy – the candle, if you like – sputters and dies. But if each individual gives out as much as he or she receives or more, the candle burns. And continues to burn, brighter and brighter. Just imagine, every one of those human beings on that rolling plain, happy, smiling and bathed in light!”
Constructing the Convivial Code
Originally, I was planning to make, as part of this essay, a first stab at a laundry-list of rights and obligations, which could form a basis for the construction of the natural law for human beings, which I dub the Convivial Code. I found, however, that to try to do that here would have made this essay so long, that it would have become precisely the giant tome I was trying to avoid. So, I’ll content myself today with saying how I plan to do the job (when I eventually get round to doing it!), making some additional notes about it, and publishing three ethical laundry-lists I myself have produced.
What I plan to do, when I get there, is go through a number of ethical sources and lists of rights or obligations, published at various times from antiquity up to the present. I’ll aim to extract from these sources a list of the obligations they levy on, and corresponding rights they grant to, convivial human beings.
Here’s my provisional list of source material, in chronological order of publication:
- Confucius’ Golden Rule.
- The Christian Ten Commandments.
- Aristotle’s virtues list.
- Magna Carta.
- John Locke’s one-sentence statement of the Code.
- 1689 English Bill of Rights (if it adds anything).
- 1791 US Bill of Rights.
- 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights.
- Ayn Rand’s virtues list.
- My own ethical laundry lists.
In this exercise, I plan to leave out ideas from religions other than Christianity, since I am insufficiently familiar with them.
Rights and obligations
As one whose view of ethics is primarily rights-based, I see the main task in constructing the Code as to make a list of valid human rights, and at the same time to back-to-back these rights with obligations which, when kept to by convivial people, result in those around them enjoying the corresponding rights. These obligations then become the core of the Code.
Fundamental rights, rights of non-impedance and procedural rights
Over the centuries, many lists of human rights have been constructed. From Magna Carta of 1215, via the 1689 English Bill of Rights and the 1791 US Bill of Rights, to the 1948 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (just about the only half-way good thing the UN ever did), these have had positive effects on the conduct of many of those in power.
These lists contain three types of rights. First, there are fundamental rights. These result from moral prohibitions – obligations to refrain from doing something, which apply to everyone – of the form “Do not…” followed by something bad.
Second, there are rights of non-impedance. These result from more nuanced moral prohibitions, of the form: “Do not put any obstacle in the way of…” followed by something good. Rights of non-impedance always carry an implied rider: “…provided it does not violate your, or anyone else’s, rights.”
And third, there are procedural rights. These rights, such as the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, must guide the procedures used in confrontational situations. And, in particular, must guide the new institution of just governance, which will supersede the state.
General and contractual rights
At right angles to this division, there is another split of rights into two groups: general and contractual. By a general right or obligation, I mean one common to all convivial human beings. Thus, a general right accrues to everyone without exception, subject only to the individual keeping to his or her general obligations. Contractual rights or obligations, on the other hand, arise out of contracts and agreements made with others.
Under just governance, one important use of contractual rights and obligations will be what I call “agreement to vary.” Through such an agreement, societies will be able to agree with their members, if they so wish, extra rules or different rules from the core Code in their dealings among themselves. Individuals and societies will also be able to agree, by mutual and informed consent, to vary or waive certain provisions of the core Code, either for one transaction or on a more regular basis.
For example, this will allow people, who so wish, to agree to do potentially dangerous activities, such as playing sports. Or sadists and masochists to agree to perform acts together, which most people would find unpleasant or even repugnant. Or religious societies to impose dietary restrictions on their members. Or voluntary communes to impose a particular political ideology, such as socialism, on their residents.
One problem with viewing ethics in terms of lists of obligations is that it isn’t always practical to keep to the obligations with absolute strictness. For example, to include in the Code an absolute prohibition on physical violence would be impractical, because it would not allow those under attack to defend themselves. Each rule of the Code must, therefore, also specify the conditions under which individuals may reasonably break it, and at what level they may do so.
I identify four sets of conditions, which may justify deviation from the Code in certain circumstances. The first two are self-defence, and defence of others. To allow these as reasons to deviate in certain situations answers many of the tricks, that philosophers like to bring up as apparent counter-examples to ethical principles. For example, the Code will require you to be truthful and honest in all your dealings with others. But if someone you suspect of wanting to harm your neighbour asks you where he has gone for the week-end, and you know where he is, it can be OK to lie in your neighbour’s defence, and say that you don’t know. This would, however, not be OK if you have specifically undertaken to tell the truth in the matter; for example, if you are a witness in a court of just governance.
The other two conditions, which may justify deviations from the Code, are required to enable just governance to be effective. One of these is for proportionate acts in the execution of common-sense justice, such as enforcing judgements made by honest courts. The other is for proportionate acts, such as arresting someone to bring them to trial, based on reasonable suspicion of real violation of the Code.
Which of these four exceptions apply to a particular right, depends on which right it is. In a few cases, it’s possible that there may be additional exceptions to particular rights. For example, some rights, such as the right to control access to your property, can be traded away; in this case, as part of a contract to let the property.
Virtues, expectations and vices
Human rights are not the only source of obligations to others. There are also obligations which correspond to the virtues which thinkers, such as Aristotle and Ayn Rand, have included in their ethical laundry-lists. Because sometimes a virtue may not be attainable in practice, these will often be couched in terms like “Strive to…” followed by a statement of the virtuous behaviour. These kinds of obligations generate, for the recipient, something similar to a right, but less strong. I will dub as “expectations” the benefits, which arise when people keep to such obligations.
I will also use “expectations” to describe those putative rights, such as always being told the truth, which if they were elevated to the status of actual rights would have a negative effect of making people think too hard before they speak or act, thus crimping their style. You have an expectation that everyone you deal with should strive to tell the truth. And if their untruths are gross or repeated, you have a right to shun them, and to claim compensation if their conduct has harmed you. But you cannot reasonably point to a single small untruth, and say, “Hey, you lied to me; you’re a criminal, and you owe me compensation!”
Beyond encouraging virtues, the Code is likely to discourage certain vices. I do not mean the kind of arbitrary “vices” that in themselves harm no-one else, such as being gay, taking drugs or drinking alcohol. Rather, I mean the kind of vices that psychopaths (including politicians) often show. Such as: arrogance, bad faith, corruption, deceit, recklessness towards others, and untrustworthiness.
It is also important, I think, to exclude from the Code the false virtues, like altruism and self-sacrifice, that are often promoted by collectivists. Where you have not taken on an explicit obligation to help someone in a particular situation, the decision on what to do must always be your own. The species survival instinct may lead you to help; as long as you have the requisite skills and courage, and the effort and cost are not too great. But to sacrifice yourself for the sake of others, against your better judgement, is madness.
Moreover, you don’t have any obligation to help those that have done harm to you; for example, those that have promoted or supported political policies hostile to you. They owe you compensation for what they did to you. You don’t owe them anything.
The judgement by behaviour principle discourages the kind of discrimination that is based on who someone is, rather than what they do. But the Code cannot go so far as to make a blanket prohibition of all forms of discrimination. When deciding with whom they want to interact, all individuals and societies must have the right to discriminate as they see fit. For example, a club may admit only members of certain races or religions. A company may refuse to hire Jews, Irish people, communists or former politicians. A woman may pick a tall man to offer her love to, in preference to a short one. Or a Christian baker may refuse to bake a bespoke cake for a gay wedding.
However, discrimination does go against the Code if it is done in bad faith. Thus, if a society or company does not wish to deal with certain types of people, they must make public any discriminatory policies they have, before they solicit members or customers. And they must make those policies clear before any attempts to negotiate a contract.
The rights of children, as opposed to adults, will need to be borne in mind when constructing the Code. Parents will be responsible for bringing up and educating their children, as far as adulthood. But they must have all the powers necessary to pick the education that they think is most appropriate for each child.
Parents will also be responsible for the behaviour of their children towards third parties.
As regards behaviour towards children, by parents or third parties, children will receive all the rights from the Code. But they will not, when young at least, be considered able to give informed consent. This can give them additional rights against those that try to mistreat them.
Since different children mature at different rates, I am not a believer in arbitrary age limits in order to be allowed to do certain things. In cases where there is no risk to third parties, I prefer to see parents having discretion to decide what their children may do, subject of course to the decision being reasonable. If there is some risk to third parties, for example from young drivers, an aptitude or low-level proficiency test may be appropriate. In any cases of serious dispute involving children, I prefer to see an objective and understanding judge given the task of making the best decision for all concerned.
That said, I cannot see any viable alternative to specifying a single age, at which every child is to be deemed to have become an adult, and takes on the responsibilities of an adult. The 18th birthday seems to me as good a coming-of-age threshold as any.
My own ethical laundry lists
I have recently produced three ethical laundry lists, each of which comes from a slightly different direction. I include them here in order to give a sense of the kind of ethical stances, which derive from my bottom-up method of philosophical thinking.
List A is a slightly updated version of my summary of the Code in the form of eight exhortations, which I included in the third essay of my set of six.
- Be peaceful.
- Seek the facts, and tell the truth.
- Strive to be honest and straightforward in all your dealings.
- Strive always to behave with justice, integrity and good faith.
- Be tolerant of those who are tolerant towards you.
- Respect the rights and freedoms of those who respect your equal rights and freedoms.
- Don’t interfere in other people’s business without a very good, objective reason.
- Take responsibility for the effects of your voluntary actions on others.
Now, just look at that list. They’re all basic values of humanity. They are absolute minimum standards for any convivial human being, are they not? So, they should be pretty easy to keep to, should they not? Therefore, how could any human being worth the name fail, deliberately, to measure up to even one of these standards? And why should anyone waste time or compassion on those that fail even to try to obey them?
I’ll leave you to answer these questions!
List B contains what a friend calls “obscenities.” That is, actions and attitudes, which are not acceptable for any convivial human being to do. I originally called it the “28 Deadly Sins.” But I have added a few more since then. Each obscenity is worded either as a noun or nouns, or using a present participle.
- Fanaticism or extremism in politics or religion.
- Disregard for the moral equality of all human beings.
- Disregard for the ideal of justice for every individual; that is, that every individual deserves, as far as practicable, to be treated as he or she treats others.
- Disregard for the presumptions of liberty of choice and freedom of action.
- Interfering in, disrupting or lowering the quality of others’ lives without good and provable reason.
- Claiming to be acting “democratically,” yet failing to allow ordinary people a meaningful say in a political matter that affects them.
- Claiming to “represent” someone politically, yet failing to argue their side of a case in which they have an interest.
- Promoting, supporting, making or enforcing harmful or unjust laws.
- Intentionally harming, harassing, impoverishing or inconveniencing people who do not harm you or others.
- War, aggressive violence.
- Lies, spin, hype, promulgating falsehoods, spreading unfounded or exaggerated scares.
- Dishonesty, deceit, cheating, bullshit, insincerity, unscrupulousness, bad faith.
- Arrogance, claiming superiority over others, authoritarianism.
- Hypocrisy; failing to practise what you preach.
- Lack of empathy; failing to recognize that every person is different and an individual.
- Violating the rights of human beings, such as dignity, property, privacy and the right to make individual choices.
- Violating human freedoms such as freedom of speech, association, movement, opinion, religion, expression, communication, peaceful assembly and protest against injustice.
- Violating procedural rights such as the presumption of innocence, due process, an independent and impartial hearing, and no punishment unless and until guilt has been proven beyond reasonable doubt.
- Untrustworthiness, empty promises.
- Recklessness towards others.
- Imposing risks on others, without having available the resources to compensate them if things go wrong.
- Failing to accept responsibility and accountability for the consequences of willed actions on others; lack of remorse.
- Seeking to indoctrinate people, and most of all children, with falsehoods or emotional manipulation.
- Taking wealth away from people against their wills; taking wealth away from people without delivering equivalent value to them in return.
- Seeking to compel people, who do not harm you or others, to do things against their wills. Such as take medical treatment they do not want, or pay for things they do not want.
- Putting obstacles in the way of the free market economy, or of people’s access to it.
- Cronyism, unjust favouritism.
- Unjust and unearned enrichment of yourself or your cronies at other’ expense.
- Cynical exploitation of people.
- Cruelty to people.
- Unnecessary cruelty to animals.
- Name-calling, ad hominem, attacking the person rather than trying to rebut their ideas.
- Denying people the right to control access to their private property.
- Attempting to encircle people; to deny them, or those authorized by them, the right to enter or leave their property.
List C, a further list of exhortations, I gave in the fifth essay of my set of six. Many of these came originally from the 2014 version of my philosophical system. There are several overlaps between this list and the lists above.
- Don’t do intentional harm to others.
- Don’t put any obstacle in the way of anyone’s access to the free market.
- Don’t try to take more from others than you are justly entitled to.
- Don’t intentionally do or aggravate injustice.
- Don’t try to claim that you have moral rights that others do not.
- Don’t unjustly deny others the right to make their own decisions.
- Don’t require anyone to prove a negative.
- Strive to uphold the principles of Civilization: voluntary society, common-sense justice, human rights, and maximum freedom for all.
- Don’t lie, deceive, cheat, mislead or bullshit.
- Strive to be independent in thought and actions.
- Don’t willingly let yourself become a drain on others.
- Always strive to do what you have knowingly and voluntarily agreed to do.
- Do not knowingly aid, encourage or condone disconvivial behaviour.
- Do not tolerate dishonesty, unless there is good and objectively justifiable reason to be dishonest in a particular situation.
- And last, but very much not least: Practise what you preach.
Our enemies’ system
But our enemies – those that want to hold back our progress, or even to haul us back down where we started from – have a philosophical system too. It’s a top-down system, in contrast to mine, which is bottom-up. I call our enemies’ system Downerism, and its adherents Downers (the word is short for “top-downers”).
I don’t have direct access to the minds of Downers. So, I have to infer their philosophy from how I see them behave. On that basis, here’s what their system looks like in outline:
Figure 2 – Overview of our enemies’ philosophical system (Downerism)
Recall, first, how my system works from the bottom up. When our human nature is allowed to flourish unchecked, our first dimension, what we are, drives the second, how we Think. Our Humanity drives our thirst for Knowledge and our Reason. In turn, our Knowledge drives the ways in which we Behave in our third dimension. In classical philosophical terms, our Reason drives our Ethics. Our third dimension and the Conviviality it leads to, in turn, drive the way in which we Organize ourselves for maximum benefit to all. In classical terms, our Ethics drives our Politics, not the other way round. And Civilization, the product of our fourth dimension, generates the environment in which we can Do, to the very best of our potential and abilities, what is natural for us to do.
Looking at the overview diagram above, our enemies’ system, like mine, has five levels. But they are the opposite way round. The progression (or, more accurately, retrogression) is top-down. For Downers, the agenda, the ideology, the collective, the state, the laws, the propaganda narratives, are everything. And the individual human being, rights and freedoms, truth and honesty, right and wrong, objective common-sense justice, and human prosperity in the free market, all count for nothing.
The Downer methodology begins with an agenda. Many Downers seem to believe that their vision of the future, and so their agenda, will be beneficial to human beings. Some supporters of environmentalism, for example, seem to think that the kind of world the United Nations, World Economic Forum and other such political actors want to force us into would be in some way better than the industrial civilization we have built over more than two centuries.
But in reality, virtually all Downer agendas are merely more or less thinly disguised programmes of hatred and destruction. Deep green environmentalists, for example, have an agenda that seeks to destroy our human industrial civilization. Do you recall this quote from Maurice Strong, principal architect of the deep green agenda? “Frankly, we may get to the point where the only way of saving the world will be for industrial civilization to collapse.”
Very often, Downers’ hatred is directed at anyone who is unwilling to conform to their agenda. Theocracies and other religious extremists, and fascist, communist and socialist régimes, all tend towards these kinds of persecutions. Often, too, the hatred is directed against people who are in some way different from others. Racism and anti-semitism all have their roots in hatreds of this kind. Sometimes, the scapegoats are those who develop their talents, and make themselves better than others at what they do. Egalitarian, anti-intellectual and anti-capitalist movements are often of this kind; as was Stalin’s genocide against the kulaks in the 1930s. But in forms like deep green environmentalism, the Downer agenda arises more from a hatred of human achievements; and even from a hatred of humanity as a species. For me, deep green environmentalism is a religion, driven by hatred for human beings.
Downer agenda setters are the worst of the worst. They are the corrupt, vicious “degenerate men” (and women) that John Locke identified. And protecting ourselves against them and their kind was the very reason that we needed to implement governments in the first place! So, to allow even one of them into any kind of government power is madness, verging on civilizational suicide.
Downer agenda setters have a vision of how they want things to be. And they seek to use politics to force their agenda on others against their wills. They pervert the natural human urge to take control of our surroundings into an un-natural, malevolent, destructive urge for control over other people.
Thus, Downers pursue power and control over others. They seek political power, for themselves and for those who subscribe to similar visions. For them, the political state is the highest good. Thus, it is the source of, and the mechanism to be used to achieve, everything they think is good.
The first stage in any Downer agenda is the (apparent) legitimization of the agenda, and of the ideology behind it. They achieve this by building a political movement. Some of these are attracted to the agenda by a shared hatred of those it targets as victims. Some like it because they see a prospect of personal gain for themselves. Others fail to see the malice in the agenda, and buy into it because they are fooled by its propaganda into feeling an angst, which they may be able to palliate by joining the movement. Yet others are simply useful idiots for the cause. They support it just because it seems to be a “cool” thing to do.
But many Downer agendas are, very obviously, malicious and tyrannical. For example: a world ruled over by communists. A world without Jews or non-Aryan races. A global, tyrannical super-state. Or a country – such as Pol Pot’s Cambodia – without a middle class. Even agendas that are not quite so obviously evil can lead to harmful policies and serious violations of rights. For example, the “war on drugs,” or the “war on terror.” Even an agenda that on first hearing sounds good, like eliminating poverty, reducing obesity, fighting an epidemic, reducing pollution, preserving wildlife or sustainable development, can still cause much unjust harm to innocent people when it is put into practice.
Psychopaths and power
It is, relatively speaking, easy for Downers to achieve power in current political systems. For many Downers are, or are on the verge of being, psychopaths. And some of the characteristics of psychopaths are extremely useful to those that want to get, and so to exercise, political power.
Here are some of the typical signs of a psychopath: Glibness and surface charm. Arrogance; thinking they are superior beings to others. Dishonesty, and the deceits, insincerity, selfishness and corruption it brings. Untrustworthiness. Lack of empathy. A tendency toward recklessness, combined with unwillingness to accept responsibility for the effects of their actions on others. Lack of remorse for their harmful acts. And more.
Are not charm, arrogance, dishonesty and selfishness, to name but four of the above, all positive assets for those seeking to climb the greasy pole that is politics today? Most of all, in democracies? And are not these and other psychopathic signs apparent among far too many of today’s politicians, among many others in positions of political power, and among a great majority of political activists?
Abuse of power
For Downers, legislation made by those in power trumps any notions of right and wrong, and any ideal of justice. Thus, they seek to get made bad and oppressive laws, with which to rule over people. And because they have little or no idea of right and wrong, Downers have little or no respect for the rights or freedoms of human beings. They will seek to do to their victims whatever furthers their agenda, no matter how much harm and pain results to those victims. They do not mind violating rights, picking on innocent scapegoats, or creating or spreading moral panics. And for many of them, violence and even war are OK.
Thus, when Downers are in control, ethics goes out of the window, and so do human rights. What is right and wrong for human beings to do, is not seen as an important question. In its place, everything revolves around what is legal or illegal, no matter how bad the laws are.
So, when Downers control a state, it is their politics that drives what behaviours are considered acceptable; not, as it ought to be, ethical standards appropriate to human beings. Recall what John Locke said about “the municipal laws of countries,” that they are “only so far right as they are founded on the law of Nature.” Locke understood the problem!
Narrative and propaganda
The politically correct narrative or dogma of the day, trumpeted by Downers and their cronies everywhere (and most of all in the media), overpowers in their minds any idea of objective truth. They will tell only the tale they themselves want to hear. And they will only accept facts when they fit their narrative. They will reject all opposing facts and evidence without even examining them. And they rarely provide any hard, objective evidence for the claims they make. Moreover, they often project their own denial of reality on to their opponents; as with those that call climate realists names like “deniers” or “conspiracy theorists.”
So, Downers create a mental atmosphere of lies and propaganda, deceptions, hype, and unreasoning fear. They season this atmosphere with fake or misleading news, smears and insults. And they seek to suppress dissenting views.
It is no coincidence, I think, that every repressive government that has ever existed has had an extremely powerful propaganda arm. Today’s governments, even “democracies,” are no exception. The mainstream media fall over each other to parrot the party line, to ignore or suppress opposition, and even to spread new unfounded scares and other ruses. The BBC’s failure, over decades, to allow a voice to those skeptical of the catastrophic human-caused global warming narrative is a good case in point.
Faith and force
At the bottom of the pyramid, the foot soldiers of Downerism apply what Ayn Rand called the destroyers of the modern world: faith and force. They believe, with blind faith, in the Downer agendas and narratives. They promote, support or enforce bad, unjust laws. They think that those bad laws are right, just because some bunch of politicians made them. And that those who will not believe the faith, must be made to follow it by force.
So, these Downer foot soldiers will act towards their victims in ways that, in objective terms, are inhuman; like the Spanish inquisitors, or those that sent prisoners at Auschwitz into the gas chambers. The future they desire is, as George Orwell put it: “a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what Downers do to us human beings when they are allowed any kind of power.
Parasites, pests and pawns
It hardly needs saying that those, that make use of the state and political power to achieve their ends, are users of Franz Oppenheimer’s political means; that is, the “unrequited appropriation of the labor of others.” All of them, thus, are Downers.
But among them, there is a cadre that use the political means in a wider sense than Franz Oppenheimer’s definition. They seek to influence, or even to control, governments. This may be for their own personal gain, or for that of their cronies. Or it may be because they seek to impose on people a particular agenda of how the world or some aspect of it should be, regardless of whether or not those people want it.
They include: The great majority of politicians. Many government employees. Most of the political establishment, and those that are well connected with it. Advisors, influencers and bureaucrats, both in government and in “non-governmental organizations.” Activists of many different hues. Greedy or politicized company bosses. Activist media figures and academics. Rich individuals and “celebrities” with their own political goals, or with narcissistic tendencies, or both. Devotees of the agendas of the United Nations, European Union, World Economic Forum and similar organizations.
The essence of the political means, as Franz Oppenheimer saw it, is taking resources from others without their consent. The takers then use these resources to enrich themselves or their cronies. In my terms, they are parasites on the people from whom the resources are taken. In John Locke’s words, they use political power for “private, separate advantage.”
Those that use the political means in this way include all those that take money, extracted through taxation, to do “jobs” that do not provide equivalent value in return to the individuals who paid those taxes. Or those – a lot of them – that simply take tax money, and waste it on things that bring no benefit at all to us. This cabal of parasites also includes many, if not most, politicians. It includes a very high proportion of government officials, bureaucrats and jobsworths. And it includes many government “experts,” “advisors” and technocrats.
The parasite cabal also includes a lot of big company bosses, “money men” such as bankers, and other corporate cronies. They take subsidies or bail-outs, or lobby for advantages for themselves, or profit from wars or bad laws. Or they secure lucrative government contracts, which they perform incompetently.
Let’s face it, these parasites are enemies of humanity. And if you are a human being worth the name, whether or not a particular parasite causes harm to you personally, that parasite is your enemy, too.
But there is another, even more malicious group, which Oppenheimer for some reason failed to call out when he wrote his book. I call them pests. Or sometimes, a stronger word: vermin.
Pests want power for the sake of what they can do with it. Pests want to control people, to persecute, and to screw up people’s lives. In John Locke’s words, they use power to satisfy their “ambition, revenge, covetousness, or any other irregular passion.”
The most virulent pests seek political power in order to pull policy strings. They want to do things to us, that we do not want, and that often cause us actual or even serious harm. So, they lobby, inside or outside government, for policies that harm certain groups or types of people. In this highly virulent group, too, are those – including globalist activists such as the United Nations and the World Economic Forum – that seek to force on us a particular agenda of how the world or some aspect of it should be. Most church leaders are in on this scam, too. And environmentalist groups, including Extinction Rebellion, are pests par excellence.
Politicians that promote, support or vote for harmful policies, including aggressive wars, green or globalist policies, and violations of our human rights, are pests too. As are government employees, sub-contractors and “non-governmental organizations,” that help along such policies. Corrupt academics and other “experts” that attempt to stamp these bad policies with a seal of “authority.” Media hacks that perpetuate the narratives behind the harmful policies, or seek to “cancel” opposition and deny freedom of speech. And corporate bosses, that lobby government to get policies made to restrict their competitors.
Under the heading of pests also come those that actually carry out government violations of human rights. Such as: Police that harass, or unjustly stop, innocent people, or enforce bad laws. And those that tax us, seek to impoverish us or cause unnecessary expenditure to us, spy on us, or violate our rights or freedoms in any way.
Even those that do not seek to use politics to enrich themselves personally, are nevertheless pests if they promote, support, make or enforce bad laws that harm innocent people. I see them, therefore, as users of the political means. Like the parasites, but in many ways worse.
Pests, like parasites, are enemies of humanity, and of every human being worth the name.
There is today a third, and very numerous, group of people I call “pawns.” These people are not directly parasites or pests. This is because they use the economic means in most aspects of their lives. Nevertheless, they ally themselves with the parasites and pests, by supporting the current political set-up. They do this, primarily, by continuing to vote for mainstream political parties, and so underwriting the charade of sham “democracy.”
Moreover, far too many of them behave as if they were obedient sheep, and fail even to try to resist the harms and rights violations that are being done to us human beings. And they still fail to do so, even when the actions of governments and their hangers-on cause unjust harm to people they know personally, or even to them as individuals.
I call them pawns, because that is what they are; foot-soldiers, that allow themselves to be used by the political parasites and pests for their own ends. But they also buy, with far too little scrutiny if any at all, the narratives of the mainstream media. They do not have enough skepticism about what they are told, or enough desire to find out the facts. And they often let themselves be swayed by falsehoods or by emotional manipulation. Thus, they fail to see through agendas such as nationalism, environmentalism, globalism and religious extremism.
Indeed, some among the pawns come to support the bad agendas they have been spoon-fed. And they feel a desire to force those agendas on to others. This is a particular problem with those who have let themselves become “converted” by the preachings of environmentalism, or of political ideologies, or of religious extremism of some kind. These pawns are in very serious danger of making themselves into pests. This danger is especially great for “celebrities,” whose fame may give their words undue weight in helping to persuade other pawns into supporting these bad agendas.
Most pawns do not have a strong ethical sense. They cannot see that most of the laws being made are bad, and harm the very people government is supposed to be serving. And they don’t seem to be aware, that this is not at all what government ought to be doing! Further, they tend to accept the narrative that they are part of some political “society.” They also think that government, and others with power in this “society,” are morally sound, and on their side. Blinded by the aura of “authority,” they fail to see the violations of the rights of innocent people by government and their hangers-on as the very serious crimes they are.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what we’re up against today.