- On Debate
Joseph Postell of the Heritage Foundation, whom I admire, posts an article in today’s Washington Times entitled Constitutional Decline. Keeping the tradition of picking on your friends, because it’s simply an easier way to make a point than systematic refutation of your enemies, I respond in this posting with a sketch of a more appropriately rational solution, and a more causally descriptive one, than Joseph’s comforting but in-actionable sentiments. His proposition is:
If we are seeking the most effective means of defending – and restoring – the Constitution, we must pay attention to the rise of the administrative state and the decline of constitutional government in the United States. …
The Founders confronted a basic problem: How to vest government with sufficient power to get things done without giving it the instruments to exercise tyrannical control? To protect individual liberty and rights, they established (among others) two basic principles at the center of our constitutional order: representation and the separation of powers. To assure that government operated by consent, they provided that those responsible for making laws would be held accountable through elections. Moreover, legislative, executive and judicial power would be separated so those who made the laws were not in charge of executing and applying them. …
Joseph blames the problem rightly on the corrupt bureaucracy. But does not know how to solve the problem: our model of debate is insufficient for our complexity of civilization. We have abandoned communism and socialism because of the problem of incentives and economic calculation in favor of redistributive democratic secular humanism, without understanding that conservative values and classical liberal procedural limits on power or not, our problem is that we have outgrown, by the division of labor and knowledge, and the increase in technological velocity, the civic republican model that is based upon a separation of powers and the calculative process of rational debate, because our legislators are not free of the limits that socialists fell prey to: the limits of legislative incentives and the limited information necessary for economic consideration, calculation and forecasting. Our government literally consists of a technological strategy insufficiently informed to make the decisions with which we have empowered it. Therefore it is open to abuse – not simply because of intention, but because of folly and a lack of means by which to conduct a rational argument. We must divide up the problem of governance differently – while adding computational capability and adding incentives for responsible actions to an increasing number of people – the vast majority of them citizens who are members of the private sector.
In other words, the problem is one of calculation: we lack the data to make rational judgements and therefore rely on sentiments. We lack the incentives and therefore fall prey to the bureaucracy.
Your argument and your sentiments are admirable. But the institutional problem is well understood. It lies in describing the additions to the constitution such that we create alternative institutions free from bureaucratic corruption, yet which are practically implementable, and which would not require violent revolution, nor extraordinary suffering to implement. As well as a plan of implementation and schedule.
Sentiments are easy. Sentiments are wishes in the wind. They are the dreams and fantasies of well intentioned men capable of nothing but exposition. They are the masculine version of a romance novel – experientially pleasant but materially vapid.
Plans are tangible things open to action, improvement and criticism. And since Mises, Hayek, Popper, Parsons and Rothbard failed to define a rational model for the post-agrarian world, there is no institutional model by which to deliver us from evil so to speak.
Our problems are non-trivial, and vastly more complex than reverting to the debate structure of the framers, wherein a small number of men simply exaggerated the city-state model of the greeks, relying upon the wisdom of platonic pseudo-philosohpher kings to make good judgment despite their representation of craftsman, merchant and farmer alike. This is too simple a form of government for a nation of hundreds of millions producing tens of millions of products and services, and a worldwide empire of trade, trade routes, and a world monetary system we treat as third party, but which, like international policing and trade routes, is the primary source of our empire’s power.
Our government has expanded and corrupted into exactly what was predicted by the Iron Law of Oligarchy: We have added judicial review – legislation from the bench.
We have added a state sponsored religion: democratic secular humanism. And ostracized the church.
We have allowed a bureaucracy to develop that cannot be shut down. We have become an empire over distinctly different cultures with distinctly different economic interests.
We have become externally dependent upon our most competitive resource – energy. We have transferred the culture from saving while productive to lend while in retirement, to inter-temporal redistribution from the productive to the unproductive.
We have converted government from it’s objective of increasing productivity for the purpose of international competition to the effort of redistributing hypothetical gains at the expense of international competition – we have created the predatory state instead of the productive state.
We have converted from a culture of integration whose problem was to enfranchise farmers for the purpose of securing our interior from external conquest, to a culture of disintegration that actively undermines integration.
We have all but dissolved the states and oppress the country’s center at the bequest of the coasts.
We have destroyed our currency, overextended our empire, exhausted our cultural habits of saving and the ‘Protestant ethic’. And turned our cultural majority into a cultural minority open to conquest by tribal primitivism on a scale and at a speed which would have horrified and panicked Roman citizenry.
We have instituted ponzi-insurance schemes under the premise of reducing risk for the few, but in doing so created a redistributive scheme of permanent debt, and insurmountable risk for the many.
We have squandered a century of post-european manufacturing advantage, not to improve our competitiveness, but to export our jobs in the silly believe that the price reductions would be worth the competitive loss of jobs, as if all men in america could be rocket scientists and engineers.
We have immigrated cheap labor without understanding the cost of delaying our children’s entry into the work force.
We have demasculineized our military without understanding that the secret to western individualism is in the fraternal order of self-sacrificing soldiers, who by their risk gain earned enfranchisement and after such risk would not become obedient to authority.
We have allowed our military to become an administrative machine, and police force only able to operate hierarchically rather than a collection of warriors capable of post-industrial defense and conquest from multiple independent angles. We have adopted silly pseudo-libertarian monetary policy and exposed our lower classes to terrific long term risk, and privatized great wealth at the expense of our working classes.
We have trained two generations of children to be lifestyle pets rather than productive and competitive citizens.
We have demasculinated men and made vast numbers of them abandon society for the comfort of video games or sports, and allowed feminists to take our their wrath on men rather than on the church, the state, and ignorance itself. And forced men into aged poverty in order to secure a consistent standard of living for children who have yet to become productive.
We are a debt society with a predatory redistributive kleptocratic state bent on accomplishing through debt slavery and constitutional circumvention what cannot be accomplished through the proscribed constitutional rules and voluntary democratic process. But worse of all, we have vastly increased the division of knowledge and labor and become a society managed by credit rather than law or religion, but we have not updated our government to consist of institutions that act as a bank, when the credit function is primary lever of our post-religion, post-law government.
We must amend our constitution for this reality. Our government must act as a bank whose duty is to issue loans and cooperate with the private sector, and socialize the profits of competitive advantage. for redistribution to the common people. It must take only calculated insurance schemes that are the product of gains in productivity earned by borrowing on the promise of the common people. This institutional change will have behavioral consequences that will remake our state as one that is competitive, and resurrect us from the simpleton idiocy of the redistributive and irresponsible state whose actions are not measured, not earned, and only stopped by near revolt at the ballot box, but inescapable once implemented as law.
We must relieve the house of commons from the act of taxation ,and allow it only investment and redistribution of the profits.
We must close the department of education and institute a voucher scheme.
We must privatize all functions of the state and open them to competition. We must vote directly with dollars against competing published contractual budgets, rather than competing individuals whose promises are immaterial.
We must restore the senate to election by the state legislatures, and limit both the volume of taxation and origin to the senate.
We must reform our lending system so that loans are not escapable by the originator, and vastly increase the number of bankers, and their quality, so that they are at the level of our lawyers, rather than at the level of our book keepers. We must restore local banking and personal advocacy of individuals by bankers, so that we do not devolve into an class of the enslaved, as ignorant of compound interest and risk as we are of laws and due process.
We must sunset all laws so that they die along with the poor fools who write them. Laws too often institutionalize silly ideas that would be destroyed by the market of daily experience.
We must disallow the development of regulations outside of the legal process, and destroy the power of the bureaucracy permanently.
We must separate property definitions, and abstract property definitions (like CDO’s, patents, copyrights, stocks) from the legislative process by creating registries for all legally reconcilable traded property types, and remove the ability for patents to prevent products from seeing the market. Put to practice is insufficient a test for protection: put to market is the only protection we should offer.
We must change corporate law to provide the same freedom to sole proprietors and partnerships and LLC’s and SC’s and Corps so that we only have one body of law for each, and one method of taxation for all.
We must change taxes such that they do not distort human cooperation, require little or no overhead, and are all based upon both income and balance sheet, so that we encourage men to become independent, but protect the people from the political class of financial predators who circumvent the market purely by the application of capital.
We can have redistribution. People under fiat money are DUE redistribution, because it is they who are borrowed against and whom take the risk.
We can maintain our empire, our freedom, our way of life. But it must be calculable to be responsible and accountable. Right now it is unregulated chaos of extreme borrowing using snake oil formulae peddled by charlatan economists, snake oil mathematicians and other hucksters who are no better than entrail-readers, oracles and bone-augers and less accurate it turns out at inter-temporal prediction than the average man on the street.
THE FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEM FACING US IS THE WEAKNESS OF THE DEBATE MODEL OF GOVERNMENT IN THE FACE OF THE CALCULATIVE COMPLEXITY OF OUR CIVILIZATION. OUR MODEL IS JUST TOO WEAK. The problem of socialist calculation is still evident in the debate model of government. OUr problem is sufficient information to make decisions, and limiting decisions to where we have sufficient information, and avoiding legislation that uses quantitative, methodological and ideological charlatainism.
Some of us who spend time on these theories are diligently working in back rooms, offices, academic institutions, think tanks, cars and showers to solve this problem. But it is not a problem of sentiments. It is a problem of execution.
Institutionalizing this degree of change will not come without violence or trauma. It never has. It never will. There are too many with vested interests feeding off the predatory state. But some of us are now more willing to take that risk than we were over the past decades. And it takes only about five percent of a population to force such a change, if that group is willing enough to act to enforce the change.
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Seattle, WA, United States
I am an independent theorist of Political Economy in the Conservative Libertarian tradition. And as a methodological Propertarian I attempt to complete the work of Rothbard and Hoppe by suggesting post-democratic political solutions for heterogeneous polities.
"De Philosophia Aristocratia"
Anglo Conservatism is the remnant of the European Aristocratic Manorial system and the Classical Liberal philosophy of the Enlightenment, combined with our ancient tribal instincts for group persistence and land-holding. It currently consists as a set of sentiments rather than as an articulated rational philosophy. And without that rational articulation, conservatives lack the ability to create and promote a plan that is a positive and rhetorically defensible alternative to the hazards of accidental bureaucracy and purposeful socialism.
This lack of an articulated philosophy leaves conservatives vulnerable in the public debate with Schumpeterian public intellectuals whose advantage in both volume of production, and simplicity of argument poses a nearly insurmountable challenge.
Libertarianism by contrast, is a rational philosophy of an articulate but permanent minority. It is based upon a solid, rational and critical methodology, even if it is flawed in its initial assumption: the principle of non-violence.
Unfortunately the Rothbardian Anarchist movement has appropriated the term "Libertarian", and left Classical Liberals and Conservatives alienated from the only system of thought with which they need to articulate their political sentiments in rational and empirical rather than moralistic and sentimental form.
By repairing the flaws in Libertarian philosophy we can use its methodology to provide a rhetorical solution for conservatives - a language which in turn may become an articulated philosophical body of argument and advocacy for the frustrated conservative majority.
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