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Sanity Zone 9-24-2011 <<Gummament Suckitude>>

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Posted 09-24-2011 at 04:17 PM by xan

Sanity Zone 9-25-2011

The Role of Government

I am not going to offer a political commentary on this topic, but rather an attempt to offer a distillation of the competing theories of “government” and what the impacts may be. As with any short piece, there will be missing or abbreviated concepts, so address those with comments, please.

First, let’s get definitions:
  • Government: A third party formed to create and enforce laws/regulations.
  • Laws/Regulation: Designed to limit activity or encourage/force certain behaviors
  • Taxes of Omission – collected from parties, the proceeds of which used to enforce rights
  • Taxes of Commission – collected from parties, the proceeds of which used to promote collectively agreed goals
  • Charity: Concept that wealth of private parties can be used to increase quality of life of another party

The only “government” that would exist would be that which parties would directly fund. Laws created for that government to enforce would be those agreed to by the parties who paid. The essential concept behind this governmental philosophy is that interactions between any parties should not be subject to outside influence. If one party agrees to buy something for another, then that’s ok. Rights, including property rights or personal rights, are enforceable only as far as the party who wishes to exercise those rights has the wherewithal to do so. If there was, say, fraud in the above transaction, any redress would be secured by the aggrieved party if that aggrieved party had the capital and the means. There would be appeal to an unbiased arbiter only if both parties agreed to that arbiter and if the party seeking redress paid for the process. Even in that instance, bribery of the arbiter would be possible.

Ultimately, laws, if there were any, would be enforceable only in the circumstance of overwhelming power. Power, resulting from interconnectivity and trust among like-minded and properly incented individuals, would be the ultimate currency. In this regard, sustaining any quality of life or standard of living would be contingent on favorable alliances accentuated by an ability to properly defend one’s position. “The Law of the Land” would be fluid, morphing depending upon the objectives of those who can economically enforce those laws.

Taxes of either type would be collected/remitted only if the interest of those paying for the government aligned with the government’s goals. There would be no power attributed to that government to forcibly collect. In essence, all “taxes” would be voluntary.

The concept of “charity” is not a selfless enterprise. Charity (in the context of power being the dominant currency) is made to enhance and enable the policies of the donor. Transfers of this nature are highly directed, and not uniformly distributed. Any disadvantaged party, either by choice or chance, must generate its own economic momentum. “Morally deserving” enterprises may be underfunded.

Social Justice

This construct arises from the assumption that each party has equal standing and rights, and in order to enforce those rights, a neutral third party must be created to assess and enforce petitions. Social Justice acknowledges that in order to determine what rights accrue that the Society must reach a consensus as to what and how those rights are conveyed. These “rights” are not static, as societies may alter them, adding or subtracting, as warranted. Yet, whatever those assigned rights, they represent the least to which each party is entitled as a member of that society.

The roles of government in this construct are complex. It must create, adjudicate and enforce. Because distribution of wealth, knowledge, ability and circumstance are arbitrary, government must eliminate the influence of the arbitrary to fairly administer its roles. It may be fair to say that in order to create a perfect social justice system, a complex and exhaustive set of laws and regulations governing possible interactions is required.

Yet to accomplish a successful Social Justice society, it must cause two kinds of taxes. Omission, to protect and enforce agreed upon rights or rules, and Commission, to “true up”, as necessary, deficiencies in the distribution of what the society has deemed the minimum entitled to each party.

In this regard, “charity” is the concept of foregoing personal wealth that will be assigned to another party who is unrelated to the donor and in which the donor has no ability to direct. Taxes of commission are, in essence, codified charity. It should be noted that “charity” in this case does not mean that no benefits accrue to the donor; in some cases, charity of this nature can strengthen the society or prevent dysfunction. Yet, it is up to the society to set up the minimum standards by which the “true up” is conducted. It should be noted that Social Justice does not prohibit or discourage directed charity.


No 21st century society is completely polar to either extreme. Each concept has attractive features and some problematic ones. For Anarchy, the result one achieves will be based on one’s ability to secure that outcome and enforce it. Anarchic systems can be violent and tend to favor the entrenched. For Social Justice, skill in bureaucracy and the abstract will be prized. Social Justice systems tend to be peaceful and can be less productive due to the level of resources dedicated to adjudication and enforcement. The USA model is a Social Justice system with features of controlled anarchy. Our particular system evolved in response to particular deficiencies in an Anarchic system.

In reading articles and blogs, and listening to friends, colleagues and utter strangers, there has been a recent phenomenon of demonizing government. Government is “us.” Our government represents the minimum to which each citizen is (enforceably) entitled as a member of our society. It is always amusing to see candidates running on “reform” or “outsider” characterized platforms. Sure, it’s marketing, because any change under our system is simply altering the rules. It may be more honest and honorable to position those rules changes in the context of whether those changes promote Justice or Anarchy.

As an example, take the “debate” about Social Security being a “Ponzi scheme” and that it needs to be changed to “save it”. The labels here are meant to disinform. Social Security is not a “Ponzi scheme,” it is a continuous self-funded deferred benefits program. It is funded by payroll deductions, invested in US Government AAA securities, and is paid out to beneficiaries meeting rigid criteria. Less than two tenths of one percent of collections is used for administrative purposes. This system is similar to a personal IRA, which is also not a “Ponzi scheme.” Social Security’s purpose is to create a minimum standard of living for the elderly and disabled. It is possible, under this system, for a person to receive benefits from this program without ever contributing to it, such as a full-time housewife/mother, orphans, or someone born with a disability.

Proponents of reform suggest several alterations.

First, privatization – this would take the investment of proceeds out of the government’s control and place it in the hands of money managers on Wall Street. There has been an historic difference of about 3% return between what the SSA achieves and what Wall Street can promise, before commissions (which would be 2%). Privatization would create, essentially, IRA’s of the beneficiary’s contributions and by extension, solve the problem of underfunding in 2037. Timing risk would arbitrarily affect beneficiaries, and they program was established to insure beneficiaries against timing risk. Further, it puts non-contributor beneficiaries into a vulnerable category. This is a classic Anarchist position: enriching entrenched players and reducing recourse of participants.

Second, alter the benefits – increase the age of retirement, decrease the annual payout. At inception of SS, life expectancy was 62, so making the age of eligibility 65 was an actuarial matter. In addition, over 90% of worker paying into the system were involved in physical labor, which decreased life expectancy. In the 80 years since, much has changed, but the basic premises of SS have not. Adjustment of beneficiary rights is classic Social Justice.

Lastly, change the taxes – increase participation rate of wealthy. There is an upper limit on income subject to SS tax. Proposals on include either raising or completely eliminating the limit, which would raise revenues and eliminate projected shortfalls in 2037. This is classic Social Justice.

Well, I hope that I’ve not inadvertently skewed the descriptions either way. Context is very important and when selecting government leaders, it is important to understand what the implications of their policies will be on the fabric of our nation. We can aspire to emulate Somalia, a truly Anarchic state, or we can take cues from Denmark, which employs most successful Social Justice techniques. In the end, one must project what changes to the rules will produce 3, 5, 10 years from now, not what id satisfying response a rule might produce today.
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  1. Old Comment
    AlaskaSaints's Avatar
    Interesting read, xan.

    I hope they don't ruin you at Princeton with the idea that Social Justice and Anarchy are our only two choices. LOL

    Being a type-A personality, my knowledge and skill sets would allow me to thrive in spite of anarchy. I would not thrive under a social justice style of government as I have a conscience.

    Simply understood, anarchy requires that Maslow's hierarchy of needs be fulfilled from the top-down. Social Justice allows needs to be fulfilled from the bottom-up!

    I can't live with that.

    Posted 09-28-2011 at 01:08 AM by AlaskaSaints AlaskaSaints is offline

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