Dwight Writes


Paleo-libertarian Social Contract - a bill of human rights

The dignity of the human person requires that no other human person, or organization of persons in human society, can assume to take away the absolute right to freedom of the individual, except in response to violence done by that person against another. Abrogating a person's freedom of action is itself an act of violence against that person.

This means that:

Every individual has personal sovereignty. They must be allowed to freely choose their every action, as long as the action does not do harm to another's person or property.

Every individual has an absolute right to life, the only exception being where merely restraining them by all means possible is not enough to prevent them from doing harm to others.

Every individual has an absolute right to own property, and no person or organization has the right to separate them from their property, or their exercise of ownership of their property, unless no other means can be found to prevent them from harming others by means of that property.

Every individual has an absolute right of association. The right of association also means that a person has the right not to associate with other persons or organizations. This further implies a right to secession from all human organizations, including every form of government. This right extends to every organization of persons who, as a group, are part of a larger organization. The right of association does not mean that a person has a right to be accepted as a member of any organization, since that would be contradictory to the right not to be associated with another.

The Day My Eyes Were Opened.

The following story is pure fiction. No actual persons or events are depicted. I submitted it to Lew Rockwell .com, but he rejected it (very politely) saying it was slightly out of scope of his site. Oh, how the artist must suffer!

I was minding my own business, walking down a quiet road, when I was hit from behind by a speeding car. My body healed slowly. I was in a coma for several years. The world, meanwhile, moved on. Then, one day, June 22, I awoke.

Before my lengthy nap, my country was made up of 50 states, and had a large national government, control of which was bounced back and forth between the Republicans and Democrats like a volleyball. The day after a national election resembled nothing so much as the whoop of victory when your team had spiked the ball. Contentiousness between liberals and conservatives hung in the air every hour of every day. There was no political dialog, no back and forth of argument. There was only "spin", coming equally from left and right. Spin and invective. This was the atmosphere of my world before 6/22.

But the world I woke up in that day was entirely different. America still had fifty states, but long gone were the two parties, Democrats and Republicans. Now there were at least forty Non-Territorial Governments (NTGs). I was told that years ago, when the new system had first come about, the NTGs had advertised incessantly on TV, radio, the internet, and in every print media. That had calmed down as people got to know who was who. Now their advertising was more nuanced.

The Reds, for example. They had been the largest block to come out of the old Republican party. They experienced, as did the Blues (Democrats), a great number of schisms in the early years, but the party leaders maintained a sizable member base by adroitly adjusting their platform. Recognizing the new shape of the world that they had entered, they fell back to their roots: limited government, support for business, and a generic Protestant view of things. The neo-conservative elements found themselves left out in the cold, and their NTG, which split off very early from the Reds, never had the numbers to rise to anywhere near the top ten. War is just too expensive, when you have a choice. The only reason they had survived so long within the Republican party was that the religious conservatives cared less about reining in the war-mongers than fighting off the abortionists. They had their priorities, and were forced into the unpleasant alliance. That was no longer the case.

The Blues also remained the largest off-shoot of the old Democrats. They too went with their well-established base: support for the common man, the need for a sane health care system throughout the land, and personal liberty in matters of sexuality. They had to let the teachers go, as the public education system was just too far out of whack to be defended successfully.

So these forty or so NTGs operated the vestiges of the old federal government jointly, paying their dues to do so. Each department of the old government had been reconstituted as a business venture, jointly owned by however many NTGs had the chips to play. The NTGs haggled over the various programs, splitting things up, each agreeing to help pay for this, but refusing to have anything to do with that. They pretty much all agreed to pay to maintain the nuclear silos and subs, but put together a committee to chart a path to the future. After all, these programs were expensive, and each NTG had a stake in reducing costs. Low cost was obviously a selling point when your existence depended on holding on to your customers. And each year the customers, every citizen of the US that wanted to benefit from what the NTGs offered, would shop around for the best deal. In many essentials there was little to distinguish the Reds from the Blues on these points: each provided comprehensive insurance plans for health and post-retirement income insurance (what used to be called Social Security). Each NTG would of course trumpet how they differed from their main competition. In the end, cost was always a big factor, and so they strained every year to cut costs.

The old Postal Service was gone, but adequately covered by UPS and the other package deliverers, who easily stepped in with new services that more than matched the old. Also gone was the old Amtrak, but this too was replaced by a more robust rail system, owned jointly by a startup created by several of the freight train companies, along with some European and Japanese rail systems.

What had brought about this amazing change? It turned out that everyone finally realized there was no going back. The country had once enjoyed a fairly uniform view of moral issues. When this first began to unravel, most visibly in the decade of the 1960s, people thought things could go on with a tweak here and there. "Perhaps we could argue pursuasively enough so they would see that we are right and they are wrong", each side thought. When persuasion failed, the battle for raw power in the government was waged. Every political election, every appointment to the Supreme Court, became a pitched battle for power and influence. If they couldn't convince, they would seize power and control the outcome to their satisfaction. Many battles were won; final victory always evaded their grasp. I guess everyone just tired of the constant battles, realized the futility of it all, and began to look for another solution.

The solution turned out to be fairly simple: give everyone what they wanted. Instead of forcing everyone to work within a single, megalithic, monopolistic, involuntary, coercive government, where membership was based solely on residence, they created a web of interwoven non-territorial governments, voluntary, non-coercive, anything but megalithic. They gave the NTGs joint power over the goods that had once been the federal government, and gave all the people the right to choose what programs in that government they would support by letting them choose which NTG would control the distribution of their tax dollars.

Not everyone was happy, of course. Some who held great power in the old regime missed that, especially the part where they got to spend other peoples money. Many, who clung to the belief that those who were "right" should impose their beliefs for the good of all, missed the ability, experienced occasionally, to control others. But most were happy that the level of invective had dropped, and the work of apologetics could go on within a more tranquil environment; for each side on every issue continued to think they had always been right. Now they could put their money, their tax money, where their mouths were. Time would tell.

Lately the talk is about getting rid of the last remnants of what had been called the Internal Revenue Service. As the NTGs had whittled away their costs, they began to make most of their money selling insurance and security. Who'd have thought?

This piece of fiction is based on two pieces of non-fiction. The first appeared some months ago in LewRockwell.com [ http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig5/johnsson3.html ].

The second would be appreciated by the readers of LewRockwell.com [ http://www.misc-iecm.mcgill.ca/publications/white.pdf ].


Non-territorial governments - a thought

We appear to be in a state of transition. Are there any historical patterns available to us to guide us to a resolution of our problems? I can think of one.

There was a time in the history of the west known as Christendom. To oversimplify a bit, we were a diverse people joined by common sets of morals and religious doctrines. The Reformation caused division within the area of doctrine. We split, then splintered. Unity of doctrine was lost, seemingly for good. At first, the attempts to repair the damage involved the use of armies, the letting of blood. Eventually we learned to coexist. More than that, the divisions themselves perhaps taught us something about freedom of conscience. It isn't that everyone is right in his own way. It is just that everyone has the right to be wrong in his own way.

Until fairly recently, doctrine has divided us, but we clung to a core of common moral beliefs. That has changed. And, like the division on doctrine, there is no going back, at least not by a direct route. But we have not yet figured out how to deal with this new reality.

What if we were able to find a solution to the new problem that worked like the old one did? What if we recognized everyone's right to be wrong, not just about doctrine, but also about morals? What would that look like?

What if rather than keeping our one-size-fits-all, winner-take-all government, we devised a way to have multiple, non-territorial governments. The Republican and Democratic Parties become non-territorial governments (NTGs), jointly controlling the various departments of government in proportion to the number of their paying members. The numbers of members would be adjusted each month as members switched party affiliation.

At some point, the parties would be allowed to split, and split they would. Eventually they too would splinter. But the parties would continue to jointly operate the national government departments like so many companies.

How would this be any different from our current situation? Like so many sons of the Prodigal Father, they would insist on splitting their inheritances and going their own ways. This one wants to maintain Social Security along the old formula: off he goes! That one wants private accounts: rip! That one wants to police the whole world; this one wants to scale back dramatically. The inheritance of the old departments of government come apart at the seams. Each NTG acts according to its lights. People vote with their feet, moving their affiliation and cash to the one that reflects their moral beliefs. Costs of doing business are trimmed to attract new members.

What would all this change create? It would do away with the idea that government must be monopolistic and involuntary. It would prove that government could be truly run like a business. It would allow each person the freedom to express their moral beliefs, to live within a government whose actions reflected their beliefs, whose tax dollars (if they could still be called taxes) would only go to fund actions that were in keeping with their morals.

Yes, it does away with our self-image: we are a Christian nation, with a single set of moral beliefs in all things. We would be divided along the moral issues that already divide us. No need to worry if the new Supreme Court judge will help tear down Roe v. Wade. Irrelevent! With our intertwining, non-territorial governments, each will act (as he would anyway) according to his own moral beliefs. The difference is, WE won't be supporting THEIR causes with OUR money. The sun shines on the just and the unjust. We each have the right to be wrong in our own ways. And we are all responsible for our own actions. The monolithic, monopolistic, territorial, involuntary government will be no more.

End of the story? No. Moral evil is objective. We will witness the consequences of evil choices, and need to bear witness to the truth, about morality just as with doctrine. The sun shines on the just and the unjust. But the wages of sin still demand to be payed.

God draws straight with crooked lines. The doctrinal divisions of the Reformation, the moral divisions of our own times, perhaps they are paths to truths that we would not have seen clearly otherwise. Perhaps they are the straightest paths God could have fashioned for us. Respecting the dignity of the human person, including the right to be wrong, could be the shortest, straightest path of all.

A response to an article by Anna Quindlen

Ms. Quinlen, when I read articles such as yours ("Now Available: Middle Ground"), I become profoundly puzzled. Either you really don't understand the viewpoints of those who proudly call themselves pro-life, or you do understand but prefer to be polemical. I don't think that you are so stupid that the first is true, yet it saddens me to think that you are so dishonest that the second is true.

First of all, there is no "middle ground" when it comes to life. You either oppose the taking of innocent life, or you don't. The question, of course, then becomes, when does life begin. Certainly there can be honest disagreement about this. For my part, it seems clear that human life begins when "his" DNA and "her" DNA do their dance, resulting in a new, genetically unique individual, genetically distinct from both parents. Everything from that point is about development, not creation. And while some are capable (I don't understand how) of judging some more worthy than others of exercising the right to live, I am not.

The fact that a new life arises from the horrible action of rape does not make that life less worthy of being alive. Isn't it more human to see beyond the horror of the evil act to the miracle of new life than to compound the original evil with the taking of innocent life? Shouldn't we expend all our energy trying to show that good can come even from the worst kind of evil? Isn't that the more human course of action, "human" in the sense of the great strength that our humanity makes us capable of in the face of evil?

Motherhood, as you know, is a great and mysterious gift. There is certainly great cost in choosing to be a mother, for it demands daily suffering and self-abnegation. Don't you know that to refuse to exercise the gift of being a co-creator with God of new life also has its cost? Ask any of your friends who have dedicated their lives to the service of God by choosing to be celibate.

A woman who becomes pregnant as a result of rape is not thereby "forced" to become a mother, anymore than a person who suffers from cancer is forced to become heroic. In both cases they are forced to deal with circumstances beyond their control. That they each can fail to be heroic in their choices is a sad truth of our fragile humanity. But is it best for all that we enable the path to self-destruction? In both cases our role is to offer our deepest compassion for their suffering, but lead them with our own courage to discover their own greater, truer selves.