The following document represents a set of principles proposed here as self-evidently valid and practical. Following these is a second section intended to represent a set of practical principles and suggestions for implementing the core principles that preceded them. This second section represents the equivalent of an alpha version of open source software that could ideally become a beta test in a sovereign political region in some future that is, we hope, not too terribly distant.
The intention is that these ideas represent a synthesis of the best of both conservative and liberal principles. Each member of any society has a unique set of beliefs and opinions. Political labels pretend to standardize a set of beliefs that everyone who claims to subscribe to that label allegedly holds. This is not compatible with the uniqueness of individual beliefs and opinions, and so does not truly represent any individual.
Instead, political labeling imperfectly represents those who sacrifice their uniqueness in conforming to an expected social norm. This club-like mentality abounds in the real world. However, for those who have been wondering and asking where I stand in the political spectrum, this document defines me politically much more precisely and accurately than any political label ever could.
Declaration of Economic Independence/Interdependence
We the people do hereby declare the truths embodied herein to be self-evident and/or historically demonstrated in practice. Idealism and pragmatism are both essential, but they must balance each other. Idealism, as represented in ideals such as all people having equal rights under the law, although not practically attained anywhere in the world or in its history, nevertheless retain their value as goals for which we must constantly aim. It would, of course, be both useless and ridiculous on its face to pretend, for example, that because we have never fully achieved the ideal of equal rights under the law, we must change it to some equivalent of “almost everyone equal” or “everyone almost equal” under the law.
Nevertheless, any idealism that assumes its ideals require no practical legal restrictions on behavior for their achievement is both unworkable and dangerous. Communism, laissez-faire capitalism, and anarchist philosophy all represent systems of thought that wrongly assume the natural forces implicit in the societies they propose are sufficient for achieving the ideals they promote. History and human nature have shown this to be not only false, but that such assumptions are extremely damaging to individual and social well being:
- Communism idealizes human motivation toward abstract philanthropic goals rather than concrete, personal economic benefit. It can only work in small communes in which everyone is intimately, positively, and harmoniously connected with everyone else and all of whom share a commitment to such a community. Historically, it has otherwise only resulted in using political power as a proxy for achieving superior economic status by very corrupt means, including “mental hospitals” and prisons for political enemies and dissenters, not to mention both political assassination and mass murder.
- Laissez-faire capitalism idealistically assumes free-market economics that naturally self-regulate for the well being of society, not merely despite selfishness but on the basis of it (e.g., Ayn Rand's The Virtue of Selfishness). It ignores that truly free markets can be distorted and even destroyed by financial power as easily and effectively as by political power in a communist dictatorship. Historically, this brand of baseless idealism has only tended toward monopoly and economic tyranny, not to mention the inefficiency this inevitably promotes, effectively making financial powers the very government-like organizations laissez-faire capitalists and anarchists both allegedly despise. A former U.S. telephone company, although not a result of laissez-faire capitalism, serves as a compelling example of economic tyranny and inefficiency in the delivery of services by a monopoly. Laissez-faire capitalism, sometimes rhetorically disguised with the euphemism “free”-market capitalism, is quite simply and obviously anarchy in the economic arena.
- Anarchy idealizes the ability of human society to spontaneously self-regulate socially in ways that protect against the very sociopathic tendencies it complains against in government. Such sociopathic tendencies inevitably exist in some sub-population that would, without the idealistic, government-free self-regulation anarchy assumes, create the very de facto government anarchy despises. Drug cartels in Mexico, some neighborhoods in California, and other parts of the southwest U.S. are a case in point despite strong government opposition. While anarchists could conceivably argue that official governments created the conditions for these local de facto governments, history is replete with similar examples completely independent of the kinds of conditions that created the drug cartels. To propose that any such de facto rulers are themselves effectively despotic governments, although true, is a transparently circular and self-defeating argument for anarchists.
The intention of the following set of principles is to balance idealism and pragmatism to promote, insofar as possible, improvement toward optimum function within a society in terms of both individual and social well being. The understanding these principles intend to communicate makes no assumption that the social structure they imply is automatically self-propelled toward the ideals for which these principles aim. There is no system or absence of systems in a society that can guarantee, independent of the general integrity of its human constituents, anything approaching an optimum level of function.
Success in implementing these principles does not rest, therefore, on idealistic assumptions regarding human character or behavior. Rather, the successful implementation of these principles requires that a sufficient portion of a society’s constituents and their government consciously implement these principles with perpetual vigilance. A society must reinforce this vigilance with education in these practical principles and strong intention and dedication to optimizing the well being of that society and its individual constituents by means of their mutual, conscientious support. This is, of course, conditioned by the degree of their overall integrity in doing so.
We the people hereby declare the following principles to be valid and self-evidently practical:
1. Large and apparently great societies and their cultures, regardless of their benevolent character or otherwise, are intrinsically comprehensive, relatively long-term phenomena.
2. Morality as defined here is practicality from a comprehensive, long-term perspective, and therefore simply represents those individual and collective behaviors that foster the genuine well being of a society and the individuals within it, as well as the long-term survival of the benevolent character of that society.
3. If economic incentives are truly to serve the interests of society, they must align with this definition of morality.
4. Economic incentives even in so-called free markets are not intrinsically structured in terms of a comprehensive, long-term perspective and therefore do not necessarily motivate moral behaviors in a society.
5. Any misalignment between economic incentives and this definition of morality intrinsically implies economic incentives that foster immoral behavior and so fail to serve the comprehensively best interests of a society.
6. Individual contributions to the well being of society and its culture naturally vary in both quality and degree, so there will always be legitimate inequality of wealth. Any such variations in wealth among individuals in a theoretically idealized, fully moral society would result strictly from differences in the quality and degree of individual contributions rather than from any misalignment between economic incentives and morality and so would not in themselves imply any immoral behavior or counterproductive economic incentives.
7. To whatever degree a real and practical society is ideal in such a moral sense, to that same degree it also serves its best interests and the long-term survival of its well being and that of its constituents.
8. The financial and political elite in a moral society benefit individually from the overall well being of that society.
9. The constraint of freedom by the exercise of legally sanctioned power of an elite class over the less powerful in otherwise legitimately agreed upon trade represents a social pathology that unarguably represents legally sanctioned theft by a powerful social elite.
10. An elite social class that extracts wealth by means of economic and political power from those less fortunate, and also those who benefit from helping to maintain such an immoral elite, eventually destroy the well being of the society that supports them and so ultimately undermine their own economic support structure.
11. To whatever degree a society is moral it fosters an inclusive economy and inhibits such an extractive economy.
12. An extractive economy typically destroys itself in a period spanning multiple generations, so those responsible for the destruction of their society do not necessarily experience the results of their destructive behavior in their own lifetimes. If a society is to survive in the long term, it therefore must contain a sufficiently well informed and moral human component to correct the short-sighted behavior of any financial and political elites who extract wealth from the less powerful by means of that power rather than by legitimate trade free from economically extractive force.
13. Wealth obtained with power and influence that extracts wealth not legitimately earned from trade with those less powerful cannot compensate with philanthropic contributions to society its fundamental immorality and resulting destructive character.
14. The good fortune to possess financial and political power is merited only to the degree that it represents just rewards for its possessors’ legitimate, comprehensive, and long-term contributions to the well being of their society and the individuals within it.
15. Money is morally neutral, since there is nothing intrinsic to money that motivates either good or evil behavior.
16. Genuine morality is rooted in practical application of the Golden Rule with respect to quality of life from a multi-generational perspective that is consequently and necessarily comprehensive socially, environmentally (since environment represents our shared wealth, endowed by both nature and society), and with respect to how long it endures.
17. Good and evil are labels applied to opposing tendencies regarding the practice of genuine morality.
18. Since geography and natural resources are strictly granted by nature, there is only one factor that structures and fuels the character, for better or worse, of the incentives money creates: the complex interaction of individual and collective desire in employing natural and humanly granted goods and services.
19. How and whether the profit motive structures incentives to serve good or evil purposes will always correspond exactly with the constructive or destructive nature of human desires and how wisely or unwisely humans view the best way to fulfill their desires, including those that are constructive, since it is always possible to choose unwise and even destructive means for the achievement of praiseworthy purposes.
20. The only legitimate purpose of financial and business law is to strongly inhibit financial incentives toward evil ends and powerfully reinforce incentives toward genuine, long-term individual well being in balance with that of society.
We the people further suggest the following principles and practices as possible means for practical implementation of the principles previously outlined herein:
1. Constructive legislation prohibits the use of financial, political, or physical power to extract wealth from the less powerful without having earned it through mutually voluntary trade, a practice otherwise known as theft.
2. Such law strongly reinforces equal availability of opportunity.
3. Such law must provide effective legal recourse for those deprived of opportunity or subjected to unearned extraction of their wealth.
4. Such law guarantees the freedom of all individual markets, including labor, to negotiate freely without fear of reprisal.
5. Such law prohibits monopolistic behavior on the part of either labor or business, since such behavior strongly inhibits free negotiation between and among markets.
6. Such law guarantees the right of labor and management to negotiate as equal partners, but requires that such negotiation be restricted to individual business enterprises and their own labor forces in order to exclude monopolistic behavior and effective price fixing by labor that organizing across entire industries otherwise represents.
7. Such law provides severe sanctions against any violation of these rights or reprisals of any kind on the part of either party to negotiations.
8. Such law restricts financial institutions to serving either banking or speculative purposes, prohibiting the same institution from serving both.
9. Such law allows non-profit banking cooperatives to organize and ultimately do business with any and all members of the public it wishes to serve in competition with for-profit banking institutions, thereby allowing practical market economics to determine the success of each type of banking institution.
10. Such law prohibits legislation from granting any advantage for either profit or non-profit banking operations over the other and prohibits predatory banking practices that would represent an equivalent advantage, such as large banks starving out smaller ones by surviving below costs for prolonged periods.
11. Such law requires that interest rates for deposits or loans be determined by market competition for customers, outlawing and effectively enforcing against any form of effective price fixing among any type of private financial institutions while also prohibiting such control (price fixing) of interest rates by government or any agency other than each banking institution reacting independently to market pressures.
12. Such law prohibits banking institutions from varying interest rates across geographical regions within national boundaries in order to eliminate excessive local charges in areas in which they could otherwise effectively act as monopolies.
13. Such law regulates banking via antitrust law to guarantee adequate competition for customer deposits and loans. It provides oversight of banking size to provide for institutional growth adequate to serve large business interests while ensuring adequate competition, disallowing otherwise monopolistic practices in charging or paying interest rates, and ensuring against becoming too big to fail without disastrous economic consequences.
14. Such law prohibits that any member of a society be punished or neglected for a partial or complete incapacity to contribute to the economic well being of that society.
15. Such law removes economic anxiety by protecting individuals within a society from economic catastrophe by guaranteeing to whatever extent possible the means for improving individual self-sufficiency and the supply of basic needs for those genuinely incapable of supporting themselves.
[Modification to 16-18 in response to feedback via comments: Such law requires that public funds come strictly from a simple sales tax. To maintain an approximate correspondence between the taxes paid and the relative use of publicly funded infrastructure, hard or soft, by both individuals and businesses, this tax is not restricted to retail, but levied on all goods and services traded. Exempted from any taxation are rent or mortgage on subsistence level housing, etc., raw produce and other basic food stuffs (not including highly processed foods, TV dinners and other pre-packaged, ready-to-eat foods, chips and dips, protein bars, dessert foods, soft drinks and fruit juice beverages, foods served ready to eat at restaurants and other eateries, etc.).]
16. Such law requires that public funds obtained from lower and middle income members of society come strictly from simple sales tax, with no income tax for these income categories.
17. Since those with the highest incomes typically take the greatest advantage of developments in public infrastructure such as municipal growth, airports, highways and other transportation infrastructure development, maintenance, and regulation, licensing, legal enforcement and justice systems, the long-term economic benefits of basic research, public transportation for low-skilled labor, etc., such law requires additional taxing of high income levels in accordance with criteria statistically correlated with the relative economic advantage government funded infrastructure provides for those with corresponding income levels.
18. Such law requires taxing of all private for-profit and non-profit business entities in accordance with criteria statistically correlated with the relative economic advantage government funded infrastructure provides for those with the corresponding industrial nature and revenues. The only exemptions would be non-profit philanthropic organizations offering services at no cost to their clients, but which would be subject to strict oversight with particular attention to revenues from donations versus the realistic market value of goods and services rendered with those non-profit organizations that charge for goods and services serving as benchmarks. Such taxes will be mandated for any business, domestic or foreign, that operates within that sovereignty.
19. A healthcare market that focuses on promoting the means of care delivery independent of its ultimate, long-term efficacy in the genuine healing of physical maladies is intrinsically flawed.
20. Whether implicit or legally explicit by means of contractual agreement, it is a norm in any reasonable economic arena that the monetary value of any economic good is ultimately dependent on the positive outcomes it provides. Healthcare cannot be an exception, since whenever a society assigns value according to a misplaced confidence in the means of its delivery rather than on its measurable outcomes, the economic incentives for positive outcomes are reversed and consequently counterproductive.
21. Since it is self-evident that there is no corporate economic incentive to provide healthcare that eliminates clients by effectively and inexpensively addressing the root causes of physical disease and malfunction, such law requires an economic system of competitive suppliers, whether private, public, or non-profit, so structured that they deliver healthcare with economic value conditioned by its quality, that is, by positive, long-term outcomes, determined by market competition rather than government regulation.
22. To eliminate an obvious scam that provides an incentive to profit with no contractual obligation to the consumer to contain costs, costs are not billed directly to the healthcare consumer. Accordingly, the effective subcontracting of medical materials, rents, and services via referral to specialists, promoting specific pharmaceutical products, etc. at a cost to the consumer instead of the provider is outlawed. The direct cost of drugs, therapies, surgery, rents, and other means of healthcare delivery are therefore a legally mandated cost to the healthcare supplier rather than the patient. The provider must then profit from building its reputation for healthcare useful in serving its clients, as in the construction trade, for example.
23. To provide extraordinary options to those wealthy enough and/or so inclined, healthcare providers are legally bound to offer all consumers higher cost options with full disclosure to the client concerning the relative benefits and risks expected, which will be as specific as possible and which specifics will be backed by solid scientific research whenever possible.
24. Such law guarantees the availability of healthcare to all members of society by requiring a public healthcare insurance provider at no direct cost to the insured other than normal tax structure and with the option to subcontract private insurance providers. This public provider/contractor would compete with and/or contract private, for-profit and/or non-profit insurance providers, thereby guaranteeing that open market economics determine costs to the public sector.
25. Such law guarantees the freedom of all members of society to choose whether to purchase from private for-profit or non-profit insurance providers, or take advantage of a public, basic insurance plan option at no direct cost to clients. Those who choose the basic plan from a private insurance provider enjoy a modestly lower sales tax burden in agreement with annually assessed statistics on savings to the public coffers per private client on the basic plan, thereby allowing market economics and client choices to determine by competition the ultimate value of all insurance options.
26. Healthcare consumers with no private insurance plan automatically default to the basic public plan.
27. Upon discovering a need for healthcare, healthcare consumers without private plans who wish to upgrade healthcare delivery from that provided in the basic plan will directly and personally assume all extra costs entailed by the provider within contractually agreed upon limits.
28. Since preventive healthcare has value in reducing ultimate healthcare costs to insurers, the public sector provides such healthcare in its basic plan using rigorous statistical analysis to optimize cost tradeoffs. It also offers modest sales tax incentives to insurers who do the same.
Copyright September 2013 © Robert P. Wendell
Redistribution freely permitted contingent upon the unmodified inclusion of this copyright notice.