In a recent post, I was writing in what I hoped was a provocative fashion, about thinking long term. In that essay I concluded that stability and adaptability are two features which are identifiably necessary for a state which has any hope of lasting for a significant period of time, and by significant I mean more than a millenia. Stability is not a feature our state and government finds as an essential feature. It is not something on which we base praxis or our lawmakers policy.

Jefferson (and his co-authors) wrote in the Declaration that Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness was the end of government. Happiness in Jefferson’s mind, if not in our less well educated modern ones, meant eudaimonia, which he following Aristotle would have tied to virtue (and the pursuit of the same). Liberty today as well, has been corrupted in meaning. But I would propose that of the three ends of government noted just above are not equal in value for a nation which hopes to last for a significant period of time. Life for example, which many modernist/futurists look to a time when our life span escapes the three score and ten (give or take) that nature has allotted and would extend that indefinitely, which would of course as a consequence redefine “human” and human society and not very likely in a better way. Liberty as well, if liberty is freedom from restraint, will find itself in the mix betwixt the stability/adaptability tension identified earlier.

Three primary factions of our political discourse, the progressive/liberal, the libertarian, and the conservative all naturally hold the same ends of government as essential but prioritize them differently. The progressive values enforcing or “creating” equality as the most important end of government, the libertarian to enforce and protect our liberty and the conservative our Happiness. Part of the difficulty of our discourse between the factions comes when fails to realize this split in underlying assumptions, to address it in our rhetoric, and a failure of imagination. We fail to imagine the consequences and reasons for our opponents points of view and end up just spitting at the other side. In part this means, while I think that Happiness and its pursuit is the most important end of government, that isn’t universal.  So, let’s look at elsewhere first.

One of the fundamental problems facing us right now, which is often “blamed” on the GOP as a failure, is the inability to trim or curtail our bureaucracy. In part this problem exists as our centralized government attempts to deal with a society which is rapidly gaining in complexity. Our lawmakers and our ever growing agencies fail, but struggle nonetheless, to understand and make judgments of technical and difficult moral issues. One obvious solution to this problem is decentralization. Instead of increased panic and attempts to centrally control things, let more people into the game. Central control and centralization is a problem which our government is facing which in some regards is might be seen as similar to the body’s allergic response (a histamine response which in turn is in irritant which triggers more histamines). In the government’s case, centralization causes problems which lead the government to urge more centralization. This leads of course for a somewhat dismal reason for supporting the progressive faction of our government (being the primary boosters of ever more centralization). The reason then to be progressive is by hastening every more centralization that it is then far more likely to bring about the catastrophic collapse requiring re-organization and a re-statement of how government is executed and to what end.
In a badly bound/published book, which was still however quite interesting, Have Fun at Work, Livingstone argues very persuasively that there is only one solution to complex problems (defined as problems too complex to “fit in one person’s head”). In practice there has only one every been working solution. That all the hierarchical top down bureaucratic methods always fail. The only thing that works, and which is best exemplified by the Lockheed Skunkworks team/method. Centralized communication and control needs to be given up and people need to be given local authority to make decisions by talking directly to the people locally involved. In building planes this means engineers talking to each other hand in hand with machinists and assembly personnel. The question then is how to put that into a political theoretical perspective.
But this sort of localization when put in the context of political theory, while well fit to solve some problems, leaves the stability question hanging. How can we imagine any sort of cohesiveness, of even a notion of pursuit of Happiness, Life and so on, in a highly localized society?


Filed under: Ethics & MoralityGovernmentMark O.

Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!