Thursday, December 29, 2011

Liberty, lībertās, lībertātis

Though Freedom is often defined as arbitrary action with impunity, no restriction placed upon behavior at all, the initial definition of Liberty [1] calls to an idea of individualism and release from constraint in a very physical sense. Those physically restrained are those enslaved. So closely is the relationship between restrained and enslaved that the First Section of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution explicitly states that slavery shall not exist in the country unless it is used as punishment for a crime. To preclude slavery under all conditions would be to abolish incarceration in kind. Separation and independence do not carry, in their proper definitions or connotations, a sense of lawlessness or arbitrary action. Liberty (in this context) should be viewed not as freedom to act in any way one cares with impunity, instead Liberty is a release from slavery, from physical bondage, from unnecessary restraint, from inequality.
If Liberty is not chaos, as many may assert when asked, then a rare investigation is called for; Liberty’s relationship with law. The function of law, as discussed in Law as Incentive, is to codify the Social Contract in order to protect Inalienable Rights. The interaction of Liberty and Inalienable Rights is conditional, one can not be Liberated if they exist in any sort of society which threatens their Inalienable Rights as they will be restrained from acting as they wish, in very least, because they will have to protect their Inalienable Rights independent of society. It is the protection of Inalienable Rights, and freedom from coercion, that allows the independence necessary for Liberty. This conditional relationship shows that, if not requiring law, Liberty at very least requires a society in which no individual would transgress against another in a way that would violate laws which protected the Inalienable Rights of all people. Law does not restrain but supports Liberty in how it defines interaction through codification so, as we interact, there is a commonly understood structure to how people relate to each other.
The structure of interaction provided by law is often confused for having the intent of providing safety. While it is the essence of justified law to protect all people’s Inalienable Rights, justified law is not intended to provide (or in cases force) safety. Law is meant to ensure the codification of Inalienable Rights, to provide Liberty so that all people may act as they see fit under their own power. It is not necessarily the case that each individual will see safety as the guiding principle of their actions. When legislation forces upon people evaluations such as those, which are not directly justified by protecting another person’s Inalienable Rights, that legislation is undermining equality in assuming that the individual to whom it applies is less capable of deciding their own course of action than a governing body. The Liberated person must be capable of self-determination and responsible for the consequences of their actions.
One who is Liberated is independent and unconstrained, free from coercion and unnecessary legislation. The Liberated Individual is neither bound in physical restraints nor the coercion that shackles the mind with a lack of clarity or threat of unnecessary repercussion. The threat of violence, for example, is a mechanism of restraint and the very mechanism used by governments of dominion, by definition. To restrain Liberty with the application of unnecessary law is coercion (under threat of penalty) coercion, constraint, and so violence when leveraged upon an individual. A government of dominion does this inevitably when individuals abdicate their power to create governmental authority. In a case of self defense, it is not a commonly held belief that the defender is exercising any sort of authority over their attacker. A government focused only on the defense of Inalienable Rights could conceivably too be an entity without authority, at very least without authority in the way expressed by a government of dominion.
The Liberated State would have to allow for the Liberated citizen and so it would have to govern only enough to protect Inalienable Rights, as earlier defined. Law prohibiting homicide (and violence in all forms) would have to exist, of course. The Liberated State would have to ask itself if there was a significant difference, in the defense of one’s rights, between violation by a person or by environmental conditions (such as cold or disease) and how that may effect housing and health care. Property (as a means to pursue happiness) would have to be protected on some level into which further investigation would be necessary as to what property a person may lay claim. Coercion would have to become a focus in laws regarding business, government, as well as individual interaction. Even staples of current criminal justice systems, such as the surprisingly unacceptable interrogation [3], are institutions of coercion with no place in the Liberated State.

[1] “The Meaning of Liberty.” Breed’s Hill Institute, Dec. 2008. Web. 19 Dec. 2011.
[2] Lībertās - Unbounded, unrestricted or released from constraint. Contains the idea of being separate and independent.
[3] Rosen, Marie. “Where the Truth Lies: The Phenomenon of False Confessions.” John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Web. 20 Dec. 2011.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Law as Incentive

The law of any representative government (republic, democracy, constitutional monarchy) exists to perform only a few simple and essential functions. In America, law exists to protect life, liberty, and the ability to pursue happiness (partially through the acquisition of property) as proclaimed initially with The Declaration of Independence and defined by The Constitution. The penal reformation of the late eighteenth century defined the essence and maxim of punishment while considered in context of a representative government. [1] While previously justified as retribution from a dictator [2], the penal reformation defined legislation as a style of Social Contract. The participants of any society are obligated to abide by laws so that society can provide those things which justify its existence. Consider society as an unavoidable state, something that exists any time two or more people interact. Codification of the Social Contract conceptually referenced by law becomes necessary, particularly with larger societies, to explain, justify, and ensure compliance with those guidelines necessary to prevent or resolve conflicts between citizens to ensure the protection of Inalienable Rights.
The danger of government, and one all current First World countries succumb to, is using law as an Incentive Program for desired (not necessary) behavior. Incentive Programs, to speak broadly, fail to function as anticipated as they develop what could be referred to as a ‘game.’ An Incentive is an arbitrary [3] rule lacking intrinsic value which is developed in order to produce specific behaviors. They often fail as those subject to the ‘game’ find ways in which to bypass the ‘rules.’ As thoroughly described by some economists, [4] those subject to arbitrary laws meant to encourage particular behaviors (such as behavior – reward systems) find ways to exploit the conditions for the reward in ways not supportive of the desired behavior or in repetition to gain multiple rewards for emulating (not truly prescribing to) desired behavior. Social Engineering (the use of laws to reinforce desired behaviors not necessary for society to exist) is the essential function of an Incentive Program and numerous laws in every society (such as vice law) perform this function. These laws are not justified in reformed penal theory as they do not perform the essential functions of society (for they are arbitrary.) They are the remains of previous, normative dictations meant to restrict liberty in a society in order to gain uniformity.
The existence of arbitrary law to gain conceptual benefits such as uniformity suggests the function of the government is seen as something beyond the social entity which protects Inalienable Rights and resolves conflict involving the violation of those rights; arbitrary laws extend beyond the justification the Social Contract provides. At best, a government that does more than ensure Liberty is a voluntary social club to some, at worst a parental figure that enforces arbitrary rules, ultimately with violence, to others. While many people may see that condition as desirable; the Social Contract is not justified through necessity as a club charter instead but only as an essential outline of Liberty through the protection of inalienable rights, nothing more. Nationalism [5], as excessive patriotism, is a symptom of this mentality. One can only be nationalistic if a country expresses traits others do not and this can only be the case if countries, when compared, do not legislate in the way truly justified by the Social Contract. Government as a social club, or parent, requires authority and that is gained through the relinquishment, or confiscation, of personal autonomy and power.
The government of dominion (one that legislates more than necessary and thus exercises authority) often justifies Incentive Programs as developing desired traits or conditions for the citizens it governs. While that may even be the case, the use of any Social Engineering law is at the cost of Liberty and it must be recognized that (any time Liberty is restricted) there are individuals in society whom confront an unnecessary law and are forced, through violence, to relinquish their Liberty. At best, those unnecessary laws may be for the safety of those violating the law but often they are for the comfort of others. The justification for unnecessary law, and even Incentive Programs which are more regulatory, assumes that the governmental body is more capable than the individual of determining the best course of action when inalienable rights and conflict is not involved. A further assumption, one rarely (if ever) referenced, every thing which is ‘wrong’ should be illegal.
To be wrong is not to be illegal, nor should it be. Wrong [6] in neither technical nor specific when used as a descriptor yet it is the justification the populace of a society receives for many enacted laws. For example, while there is an argument to be made for underground distribution of drugs as harmful, a free person has power over their action without government interference (should that action not conflict with a person’s rights.) To legislate a person’s action for their safety assumes that the citizen is incapable of evaluating their own actions with similar or better capability than the government. Furthermore, legislation to enforce safe choices by and for that same individual assumes safe is always the best choice. These are the underlying assumptions of Incentive Programs in the sense it is being used and, as a path to Social Engineering, these assumptions give room for even representative societies to perform the atrocities conceived in dictatorships. The essential trait of Liberty, and the penal reformation born what we now know it to be, is equality and a respect for humanity; to allow a government to assume it is more capable of its individual citizens (or that some are more capable than others in majority rule) is to undermine Liberty fundamentally by cutting at the conceptual foundation of equality.

[1] Foucault, Michel. “Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison.” New York: Vintage Books, 1995. Print.
[2] Dictator in Law as Incentive not intended with negative connotation but only as one who dictates as opposed to represents; need not be in the form of a monarchy.
[3] “Arbitrary.” The Random House Dictionary. Web. 19 Dec. 2011.
[4] Freakonomics. Dir. Heidi Ewing et al. Chad Troutwine Films et al, 2010. Film.
[5] “Nationalism.” The Random House Dictionary. Web. 19 Dec. 2011.
[6] “Wrong.” The Random House Dictionary. Web. 19 Dec. 2011.

Monday, December 19, 2011

More Than Democracy

Though often presented as the ideal of political theory, Democracy still exists in a structure of Kratos, a structure of power and contextually a structure existing in deeds of violence and authority. [1] To the minds developed within a history of Monarchy, Democracy may seem to be the most natural and free governance possible but this initial impression exists because more fundamental assumptions obscure certain aspects of the most basic components of authority. No form of authority, no matter how dispersed or equally applied, is fair. As a person relinquishes their power and responsibility over their actions to a government, they consent to the reality that it may be demanded of them to act in a way they do not want to. This eventual conflict will not be a request or a dialogue, it will be a demand. Every citizen will eventually be compelled to comply with a demand they do not wish to due the relinquishment of power authority requires; to do otherwise would be criminal. The structure of Kratos demands compliance through any number of sanctions and always finally through violence.
It could be argued that Democracy is in some way fair in function, every person votes in exactly the same matter, they are tallied, and the results are published; all are expected to abide by the decree of the citizenry. This characterization of Democracy is an illusion provided by the structure. While a direct system of cast ballots is enacted by all citizens in the same way, the results are neither representative of the entire populace nor the intensity of their belief or even the quality of their knowledge. The result of a Democratic poll is ultimately a dictation issued by The Majority (just as it would have been a dictation by an individual in a Monarchy or a minority in an Oligarcy) to, at best, the entire populace. It is in the defense of Democracy that one might claim we must all make sacrifices to be part of a society. The claim is true, though those sacrifices need not be dictated upon threat of violence, and the foundation for the theory of Mutual Aid. Democracy is not an institution of Mutual Aid, however.
The sacrifices needed from the members of a community, in the name of Mutual aid, are violated by Democracy in a way often ignored in political theory. First, Democracy assumes The Minority is an ever cycling group. Those advocating Democracy speak as though every person will be asked in turn to make concessions at the same frequency and of the same personal value as every other person in a Democratic system. This is certainly false, Static Minorities (those who are often or nearly always upon the ‘losing’ side of a ballot) have existed throughout the history of Democracy even when not institutionalized through laws created by majority consensus which we would now, as a whole, consider unjust – slavery, for example. As a system of Kratos (dominion) is capable of forcing unjust rulings that The Majority may feel indifferent or apathetic toward; enforcement through violence. A system, of any sort, which can institutionalize injustice upon threat of violence is undesirable.
Democracy, perhaps even more than Monarchy or Oligarcy, is farther subjected to a critical flaw in dominion – uninformed choice. While society now has the means to allow every person access to experts, the review and debate of the Scientific Community is not always and should not always be accepted by every person. This obscurity inevitably leads to unjust decisions from any authority should the government legislate beyond that which is absolutely necessary, a near certainty when authority is involved. While those who advocate Democracy claim The Majority will prevent unjust legislation, we see that is not always the case in both history and concept. Another assumption (beyond equitable distribution of sacrifice and informed choice) exists in Democratic structure, the belief that those who vote do so only on the basis of justice.
Of those things which influence government, wealth has a long and complex history with politics. Even now global protests (The Occupy Moment) are underway which, at their core, are claims about the damage wealth can exhibit upon politics. [2] Despite all other claims that could be made, and many rightfully so, about the interaction of wealth and government; the fact remains that wealth destroys government in the most fundamental way. All governments of authority depend on one basic fact, those with the authority must make their decisions based upon what is, or at least what they believe to be, justice. In a Democracy, if The Majority can be influenced by anything other than justice (such as wealth) then the conceptual foundation for the government collapses the moment that potential actualizes. In no governmental form is this more effectual than a Democracy; one single vote purchased from any single citizen assaults Democracy in and irreparable and foundational way. Every government of dominion suffers from this fatal flaw and every Democracy is undoubtedly a victim of it.

[1] Dr. Palmquist, Steven. “A Philosophical Framework for Political Systems.” Hong Kong Baptist University, 14 May 2010. Web. 13 Dec. 2011
[2] Covert, Darcy. Hayat, Ali. “Capturing Occupy Wall Street Movement Demands.” The Huffington Post, 11 Nov. 2011. Web. 15 Dec. 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Anarchy, ἀναρχίᾱ, anarchíā

Initially Anarchy [1] was used to denote a society ruled by none or, to the Greeks, equivalent to the way we now use Democracy [2]. The etymology of Anarchy is similar to Monarchy [3] or Oligarchy [4] however not to ‘Democracy’ or ‘Republic’ which do not share a root word or even, in the case of Republic, a root language. Anarchy does not refer to a structure of government necessarily but a structure of authority and this subtlety is so lost in current use that Isocracy [5] has, in some sense, usurped the original use of Anarchy. Kratos, however, is power, might, or strength which (in some contexts) implies “deeds of violence” or “power over” [6] - In short, authority. This context of authority is what Democracy, and even Isocracy, calls to which Anarchists resist. Archia rooted words speak only of governance, not means.
To be an Anarchist is to be, despite all other differences with those so labeled, an individual who resists the social urge to abdicate their power over their own actions, and sometimes even thoughts, to an authority. This is the essence of The Anarchist which is buried under the negative connotations of lawlessness that are heaped upon those who identify and are identified as such. While certainly some who self identify as Anarchist do wish for Anarchy in the current sense of chaos, the concept should not be viewed as such but with more sincere academic depth. The Anarchist, in the sense so defined and as a person, is one who keeps their power over their own actions and decisions and thus the responsibility for those actions and decisions. The relationship between power, authority, and responsibility is core to the concept of the Anarchist.
To be responsible, by simple dictionary definition, is to be “answerable or accountable, as for something within one’s power, control, or management.” [7] An Anarchist, as one who refuses to relinquish power in an institutionalized manner (to include the public opinion which validates control in Democracy), is thus accountable for all their actions. This accountability is what spurs the abdication of one’s innate power over their own actions (as the being which initiates action) to a governing source for a variety of potentially justifiable reasons. That which does not have power is not accountable and both Monarchy (which often takes authority through violence) and Oligarchy (such as a Republic or Democracy) institutionalize the relinquishment of autonomy to establish governmental authority so that individuals become accountable for less, the specific interplay Anarchy resists. This does not eliminate the possibility of Anarchist governance entirely.
The Anarchist State would lack the authority characteristic of other governments. Individual autonomy would have to be maximized - that is to say, freedom would have to be maximized. All governmental authority is taken from personal responsibility and responsibility is conditional upon control. This exchange, the forgoing of autonomy for safety from responsibility, is the essence of governmental control. While it appears as though Anarchist law (and so government) would be severely limited in scope, there is the possibility of governance and a condition many Individualists claim would be highly valuable. The maxim of Anarchist law would be Mutual Aid, initially defined by Peter Kropotkin, that we as individuals assist each other so that we may be assisted. Mutual Aid allows self defense, to assist another to the point of harming yourself would not be Mutual Aid but Parasitic Aid. Law would codify this maxim of interaction with staples such as prohibitions against violence and even property damage or, as Kopotkin would identify more generally, coercion.
While Mutual Aid, prohibitions against coercion, and self defense form a solid conceptual basis, the essence of an Anarchist government is freedom. “Exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.”[8], except in the case of law used to codify self defense and prevent coercion, is as accurate a definition of Anarchy as it is freedom. Freedom does not call for anyone to relinquish their judgment to create governmental authority so they may avoid responsibility; on the contrary, those who love freedom have fought Monarchies and Oligarchies throughout history in order to reclaim their autonomy and responsibility. Every law leveraged upon the individual that does not prevent the infliction of violence (physical or coercive) upon another steals from those subjected to it some of their power, their autonomy, their freedom.

[1] - [6] Dr. Palmquist, Steven. “A Philosophical Framework for Political Systems.” Hong Kong Baptist University, 14 May 2010. Web. 13 Dec. 2011
[1] An (Greek prefix ἀν, an) - The negative prefix in Greek, used to note a lack of the root. Archíā (Greek verb ἄρχω, archo) - To rule, to govern, to command. Àrchon (Greek noun ἄρχωv, àrchon) leader, ruler, chief.
[2] Democracy, δημοκρατία, dēmokratía - “Power of the people.”
[3] Mono (Greek prefix mònos, μόνος) One, singular
[4] Oligo (Greek prefix ὀλίγος, olígos) - A few.
[5] Isocracy, ἴσοςκρατεῖν - To have equal power.
[6] Palmquist’s sixth footnote deals with this subtlety of Greek language.
[7] “Responsible.” The Random House Dictionary. Web. 13 Dec. 2011.
[8] “Freedom.” The Random House Dictionary. Web. 13 Dec. 2011.

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