Friday, October 31, 2014



In Ethics for the New Millennium the Dalai Lama said “Our interests are inextricably linked, we are compelled to accept ethics as the indispensable interface between my desire for happiness and yours.” As with all wisdom, this quote’s content broaches an almost universal truth and provides a platform for my contemplation regarding government. As our interests are inextricably linked and indeed the need for an effective interface is indispensable, an interface that promotes mutual happiness seems to me to be the most laudable of pursuits. This premise sums perfectly the writer’s view of government, as an indispensable interface between my desire for happiness and yours. Imagine if you will, a government that permits human action, with the only precondition on that action being the freewill of a sovereign citizen, in benign coexistence or in concert with others.

“If the human race wishes to have a prolonged and indefinite period of material prosperity, they have only got to behave in a peaceful and helpful way toward one another. “ Winston Churchill

In the contemplation of governance, the fundamental question is “do I view the populous as a collection of individuals or a group of people?” Clarifying which perspective finds resonance with you, largely determines whether top down policy or grassroots policy is your preference.

By viewing the populous as a group of individuals, greater attention is directed to a person as a free agent and the requisite personal responsibility is conferred to that individual. By contrast, viewing the populous as a group of people to be managed, a greater significance is placed on the group and the individual tends to be muted. One needs to set a priority on whether they want to extend trust to the grassroots for self and societal direction, or relinquish self and societal direction to the collective. Ironically, democracy can generate action at or near the extremes, or anywhere along the continuum. Most political debate is over the degree and nature of state services as they affect societal positioning along the state control continuum.

Social Capital refers to the ease with which people in a particular culture can form associations. It is suggested that the more facilitated the forming of associations is, the more prosperous a state or entity will be. Sovereign individuals, unconstrained by excessive government oversight are best able to build social capital – and pursue outcomes in the context of creative human action.

Cultural Trajectory is the process of developing concepts by a society (or cultural unit) over time. Trajectory refers to the broadening and increasing complexity of a concept and infers no value. The concept of weight first emerged from humans’ interactions with the physical world. The concept of heavy and light flowed to the concept of balance, by the experience of picking up objects of different weight and discovering one was heavier than the other, these perceptions flowed to the concept of incremental gradient in weight, which flowed to our modern concept of weights and measures. In the context of organizational development, Cultural Trajectory provides a useful conceptual framework for contemplating the emergence of human thought and action in relation to a given environment; the more points of origin, the more vectors of human endeavour, the more opportunity for cultural trajectory. This is a numbers game and it is better to have the mass of the world’s people representing points of origin than a few people in government.

Contrasting to “several points of origin” are societal mega structures with related paternalism and the retraction of self-reliance.  When people become reliant on centralized mega structures that serve them proficiently in day to day terms, albeit inefficiently in the case of government, they lose the sense of self-preservation; apathy and complacency sets in, and they are unprepared to sustain themselves absent the support and direction of societal mega structures.
Strength in structure comes from dispersed component parts providing for the creation of a gestalt, a gestalt comprised of functioning elements with redundancy and diversity. A society built on a foundation of secure, strong, self-reliant, critical thinking individuals, united in a family unit, part of a vibrant community, has inherent in it stability. This structure of self-reliant people collectively functioning creates more than stability; it creates a virtuous path of influence into a governance structure, a government structure which is dependent on the people as a strong foundation.
Order emerges from chaos to generate an entity, only chaos provides this opportunity. Entropy, then is a desirable thing in societal systems; in economic terms we call this “creative destruction”. Sovereign individuals engaging in human exchange in an unencumbered fashion is chaotic, but from that chaos comes new modalities of communion and the resulting outcomes; unpredictable and magnificent in their potential. In the absence of an autonomous individual, this capacity to create new order is suppressed. Entropy is humanity’s constant companion, the unordered state lurking beneath the surface of societal order struggling to consume order again. The greater the order, the greater the pull to chaos and the more energy required to maintain order. The more complex human order becomes, the more important it is for multiple and varied substructures. Centralized systems contain points of weakness and or influence, trip wires that facilitate collapse. A system constructed of a multiplicity of diverse substructures offers stability through repetition (redundancy per engineering), the absence of points of concentrated influence and multiple routes to solution.     
Centralized structures offer efficient mediums for the few to control the many, regardless of the few’s intent. The more centralized systems become, the more centralized the intelligence becomes. It follows then, that the more centralized the system functionality becomes, the more exposed they become too tyrannical risk, and or collapse, as a result of some weak point in their structure.

As is often the case, nature is our best teacher and offers insight here to the reality that the absence of central planning still permits and indeed requires planning. That is to say, entities need to plan, but in response to the natural dynamic of human action, as opposed to the planning of human action. One often observes in the natural world phenomena like a flock of birds numbering in the thousands flying in perfect formation, speeding through the sky darting at obstacles, choosing direction depending on their collective environment. This unison occurs as the group of birds, sharing the same desired outcome and responding to the same environment take action – this event transpires absent a shred of central planning, but we can plan for it. We can through observation understand the various contributing factors determining the birds’ behaviour and anticipate their actions and provide for them. The same is true for spontaneous human action; government has a role to play in anticipating and planning. The key distinction is, when the oppressive central body is removed and replaced by an observer and facilitator, the spontaneity and creativity of the full breadth of human action finds expression.
Take a moment to contemplate your dependency on mega structures which are completely outside your influence: electrical distribution systems, food supply, fuel distribution – the list is extensive. Now ask yourself the length of time you could exist without one or all of them. In business we use the term “burn rate” to describe the time it would take for a company to run out of cash absent income. Ask yourself what your system independent burn rate is, the time you personally could exist absent one or all of these mega systems. Having engaged in this exercise you will have some sense just how close to chaos our daily lives are.

Parents must teach their children well the responsibilities of humanity and society’s need to empower, place faith in and remove constraints from the individual. Every single act of human progress is based on the act of a single individual. Our society needs to transfer trust back to the individual to make their own choices; informed individuals collect and operate in rational ways; centralized entities distort human intent and create precarious structures.

Promoting the fundamental right of self-governance – to exercise personal choice in the absence of obstruction or harm to others this it is my interest in the writing of this blog piece, to make a case for the grassroots to manage and direct their own lives, in the context of two freedoms (to be explained in detail below); and to develop a view of government as a facilitator of human exchange, as opposed to, a controller of people. In western democracies, governments are experiencing mission creep because in democracies governments get elected based on people wanting something and government providing it. This is a good thing, but as has happened with so many civilizations in the past, governments can collapse under their own weight. It is my assertion that by extending to the individual greater status with the commensurate responsibility, governments remain democratic, plastic and less totalitarian.              

Another key influencing factor in the contemplation of government is, at what point does government end and civil society begin, or perhaps more importantly, where does civil society end and government begin? Oil and water make an excellent metaphor for Civil Society and Government, but rather than their separation occurring on the horizontal plane, they would separate on the vertical plane.  When one chooses to view society as a collection of autonomous sovereign individuals, we are able to extend tolerance to human action that may be out of accord with our own life modality. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, all we need for reason to prevail is to accept other’s truths to be as valid as our own. Christianity is the dominant influence in the western narrative and as such Christian morality has found strong expression in our society and by extension in our governments - in the main, this is a good thing.

Challenges  do arise however, when large portions of the population have chosen actions which challenge strict Christian morality and then find themselves marginalised as a result. This phenomenon delegitimizes government in the eyes of those whose views are marginalised. Government needs to, to the extent possible, serialise the presence of morality from government action. By way of example, 30% of Canadians have at some point used Cannabis; the use of Cannabis grates against the Christian moral tenet which challenges the hedonistic pursuit of an altered state – morality, as opposed to science, is at the root of the prohibition of Cannabis use. The specifics of drug policy are discussed another blog, what is important at this point is the realisation that 30% of our population are having morality imposed on them by the most draconian of means available in our society – as autonomous sovereign agents they would have the right to choose.

Freedom extends to all choices absent moral judgment - in the absence of harm to others. If someone’s action is absent harm or influence to others, that breaches a moral tenet of mine, I have the right to engage them intellectually, I am absent the right to incarcerate them. Government’s function is to manage disparate action of people to promote harmonious prosperity; morality belongs in Civil Society where persuasion takes place one individual to another, as opposed to state coercion over a greater or lesser minority.  Christ’s message of love and tolerance is a beautiful thing; the Christian moral complex has given us an outstanding base from which to build. The goal of government is to have people choose the Christian moral complex for themselves as opposed to imposing it through rule of law. The Christian moral complex came to me with my mother’s milk, is an innate part of me – as an adult I have chosen which parts are relative to my life and which are not – that is my right to exercise.            

“The whole virtue of justice, therefore, the most important of all the virtues, is no more than discreet and prudent conduct with regard to our neighbours.” Adam Smith

The progression of order then, when contemplating governance with emphasis on the individual will generate a gradation of influence which runs as follows: individual, family, community, region, country, macro region, world. This progression is sequenced as shown above and linked. To make explicit the writer’s intent, the ultimate culmination of human governance has as its genesis self-governing sovereign individuals on whom the progressive forms of assembly and those assemblies’ actions are dependant, with, as its culmination, a responsive world mode of governance.

The recognition of personal sovereignty as a sanctity inherent in our humanity is the cornerstone of a democracy. Personal sovereignty is for the state to ensure all people have, as opposed to a privilege it can extend. Granted, as the social contract has evolved we have forfeited some sovereignty to facilitate a functioning society; of the upper most concern, however, must be the preservation of choice of personal creed. The right of self-determination must be preserved as the sole domain of the individual. Personal sovereignty must be the paramount focus of governance; every word on every page of legislation should be vetted in the context of personal choice. By extending a sacred emphasis to personal sovereignty, a culture of personal choice builds moving governance away from totalitarian authoritarianism where people live in a state of subordination, to a democratic state of being with free individuals.

This perspective is somewhat different than the common definition of human rights, where every human holds basic rights by virtue of their humanity. While the basic consideration of human rights is certainly valid in governance, the perspective posited here has as its priority choice. These two premises are inclusive, it is the writer’s assertion, however, that choice be the first order of business. There is a harmonic in their interaction; total personal sovereignty has both elements as components. 

The concept of sovereignty is misdirected at states; the extension of sovereignty to the state originates in the tenets of the Westphalian perspective, where credence was granted to the authority of the state. This perspective and its actuation have clearly resulted in harmful nationalism. I am proud to be Canadian and an ardent advocate of the dominion of Canada, but I view Canadian government as a management body for the region in which I live. The extending of sovereignty to the individual precludes both intra and interstate excess. Strong international commitment to personal sovereignty facilitates the fading of the damaging effects of borders, while at the same time permitting an appropriately powerful state.

The two freedoms, (1) the absence of coercion, and (2) the knowledge and the means to self-actuate are what provides the possibility of personal sovereignty and the absence of either precludes sovereign action. The first freedom is the absence of coercion, which extends to the individual the ability to engage in life actions without state coercion or coercion from other citizens – personal choice permitted. The second freedom is the state’s or private citizen’s responsibility to extend the knowledge and means for people to self-actuate. It is the second freedom’s extent of emphasis that determines the size of government, and it is in the contemplation of addressing the second freedom that most political debate emanates from.

The first freedom - the absence of coercion contributes to personal sovereignty by allowing the individual to say “my actions are my own provided they are absent harm to others.” This is a critical element of freedom as it is the first facilitator of personal sovereignty. As Thomas Jefferson said “if a man neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg, what do I care if he has one or a hundred gods”.  This quote aptly communicates the appropriateness of any harmless action by any individual and alludes to the separation of church and state.

Personal sovereignty, liberty, freedom are words so seldom heard in contemporary discourse, yet they are what youth should lust after. Under a blanket of prosperity and the resulting apathy, the stark reality is that there is an insidious progression of state into our personal lives. While the sovereign individual is flaunted and exalted in our culture, people are relinquishing choice daily. Human beings have been struggling for millennia to liberate themselves; wars have been fought, governments fallen. What single component of our society is more paramount? What better indicator of success for a society, than the level of personal sovereignty? It is my opinion that personal liberty is waning in Western Society. There are several forces at work eroding our liberty; mass fear and the zealous application of technology to “protect” us; the inclination of government to overextend itself in the context of the second freedom, contemporary governments inclination to protect us from ourselves; the limiting of choice due to monopolist inclinations of government – the list is extensive. We must pull the populace from complacency by making explicit what occurs tacitly every day, just outside our perception; one piece of legislation at a time, our right to govern ourselves is being taken away.   

“Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned, an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people” Theodore Roosevelt

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