Change one thing

Question of the Day, November 21, 2011 Legal/economic/political system

If you could change one thing about the rules within which the legal/economic/political system operates, what would it be?

Depends how you define one thing.
Changing one thing wouldn’t accomplish much.

If you take the meta level approach to one thing, then it is possible.
The systems are very tightly integrated, with many incentive structures built in that tightly couple the interests of power and money, over the interests of individuals.

At this level, the one thing would be, invert the systemic level incentive structures, to incentivise everyone in the system to ensure that everyone has their basic needs for food, shelter, water, sanitation, education, transport and communication met – no exceptions; and to create this abundance outside of the economic model.

This does not mean sharing everything equally.
It means ensuring that there is sufficient abundance of the essentials that everyone has all they need; and then allowing economic structures to operate above that minimum level.

With the advent of computerised automation, and the emergence of solar power technology, it is becoming viable to create systems that deliver this abundance without having to involve anyone in ongoing maintenance – thus reducing the operating cost to zero – just leaving the development cost – which is probably less that the life-cycle cost of one Nimitz class aircraft carrier.

[followed by]

One question OM
How would you stop someone who was using force against someone else?

Force sort of has its own rules of necessity that cannot be avoided.
And I certainly agree that the institutional use of force should be used only to counter the use of force by other parties, and only as a matter of last resort.
As such, I would advise that everyone learn basic techniques of self defense.

[followed by]

Hi Deb

Two problems with what you suggest.

One is that lobbyists are a symptom, not a cause. The cause is the unrestricted pursuit of money.
Producing goods and services that one sells on an open market is generally a very socially useful thing.
Using any and all tools available to accumulate as much money as possible is definitely not socially useful (and has led to the political/legal/judicial/economic structures that we find ourselves in).

I do not believe that equality for everyone is sustainable, there must be asymmetries to develop incentives. However, there does need to be a high minimum, and there also needs to be some fairly strong rules about what are allowable ways of making money.

This is a complex issue, and while I have been a proponent of flat tax systems for almost 30 years, In recent months I have gone full circle and gone back to favouring a graduated taxation system, index linked to inflation/deflation.

The other issue is around democracy.
I fully support democratic processes.
I encourage all people to be involved in the process.
And part of the responsibility of government is to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority.

Thus I believe it is incumbent on those we elect to high office to make themselves far more aware than the average person of the depths and complexities of the issues. Part of that process means engaging with anyone who wishes to engage, to ensure that their viewpoint is understood and included in the deliberations. Often that last part is missing from today’s processes – the dominant factors tend to be economic, rather than social – for a whole host of reasons.

And there is certainly a strong argument to restrict the role of lobbyists in government processes from that which they enjoy at present.

[<b>followed by</b>]

Agree with most of what you say OM, and it doesn’t get past the reality that some small fraction of humanity are (for all sorts of different reasons) so damaged and dangerous that force is required to stop them. And I cannot see any systemic alternative.

If really does seem as if the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

[<b>followed by</b>]

Hi OM, Victoria, & Torch,

I agree with both Torch and Victoria, and I am still going to stay with the force idea for a bit OM.

To me, force is unavoidable, and force has many forms.
Mental force can be just as damaging as physical force.
In my understanding, force in this sense is any application of intentional power that overwhelms the capacity of the other to resist it, and to carry out their own intentions.

There are many sorts of force that are not bodily force, that are just as damaging.

There is a urethane spray, that foams and hardens in a second or so, that can completely immobilize people. If applied to legs and arms, it could be termed “non violent”, if applied to chest and or head, it is lethal.

The power of words and ideas can be used to overwhelm others, and cause them damage. I recall an incident from almost 40 years ago, where I had just finished my last exam, and was about to leave my flat for the last time, and a young couple came in to try and convert me to christianity. Because they approached me on my ground, I rationalised that they were fair game (I was probably extremely annoyed at the educational establishment at the time, and they got the full force of my mind unleashed upon them, without restraint). I was very calm and polite externally, yet intentionally I was focussed on dismantling the structure of their belief system. It took about 4 hours, and I did it. They left there questioning everything they had believed when they arrived.
What I did not do, was install and alternative structure of understanding before destroying their old one.
I never heard from them again directly, but a couple of months later I was back home, and having one of my semi regular “sparring sessions” with the chief elder of their church in my home region (the younger ones were banned from visiting my house) and he mentioned that a young couple had left the church and left their jobs and were completely without purpose in life.
I had to own that I had done that.
I haven’t done anything quite like it again.
I now put much more energy into building than destroying, and try to ensure that someone has a strong alternative structure of purpose before exposing the weakness in the foundations of the one they are using.

The point of the story being, there are many types of force, and each can have its own destructive outcomes.

The societal use of economic force is another example.
The use of force in advertising (which is definitely a multi-level thing).
The force of law as applied by lawyers.

One cannot avoid the use of force at some level in some circumstances, and it is something that each of us has to be personally responsible for.
As I see it, the only stable use of force is against sociopathic entities, and only at a level sufficient to mitigate their sociopathic tendencies.

And sometimes, stuff happens. Kind of like a large ship travelling at high speed puts up a large and breaking bow wave. If you happen to be in a small boat, and the top speed of that small boat is less that that of the ship, you may simply be overwhelmed and sunk by the passing of the ship, without anyone on the ship even noticing you were there (had that happen to me one day – about 4 miles from shore – I didn’t see the ship {they came up behind me}, and no one saw me {I was in a very small boat} the first thing I knew was my boat starting to lift on a wave, and when I looked back there was just a wall of water and steel above me – I never heard or saw a thing, over the noise of my own engine – I never looked behind me as I was planing along at about 15 knts – the ship was doing about 28knts – I got rolled by the wave, and ended up inthe water, my boat full of water, and had to bail it out, and get the engine restarted – taught be to always keep lookout in all directions).

It is down to those of us who are awake, and have some control of their own boats, to stay vigilant (the others are asleep in their ships).

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see
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