Continued from last post . . . So what do my social democratic views actually look like? And why would I call them radical, when social democracy is a style of politics usually associated with boring Scandinavians?
Basically, my politics comes down to an opposition to centralization. That’s not libertarian, because they’re only opposed to centralization in the government. And I don’t share the libertarian opposition to unions in themselves, only unions that centralize their policies and actions from an in-crowd of leadership. Here’s how things break down for me.
|In the politics of the 2015 West, we've come to fear
our security institutions more than whatever it is they
apparently protect us from.
The classical liberal (and post-Nozick libertarian) belief that the state’s only essential function is providing security comes from a Hobbes-style thought experiment that presumes an anarchic and violent natural world from which the state delivers us.
It rests on the false presumption that only a universal institution of police and prisons can protect us all from constant rioting. The presumption is that before the development of states, there was nothing but an atmosphere of constant violence, or at least the constant possibility of violence and banditry.
Really, I think communities – at least at the local level of neighbourhoods – naturally live in peace. And institutions to settle disputes are only needed as a society grows bigger than the neighbourhood. Even then, it’s dangerous to let our security agencies grow so powerful that they think they should run the whole show.
You can’t really have a free society without people being free to start businesses and build their own careers according to their own talents and desires. An entire country’s economy is too complicated for a centralized planning authority in the state to assess correctly and arrange jobs and careers for the whole population.
All a government can do is set conditions for economic development through taxes, interest rate controls, financial regulations, and labour rights laws. Much more control over competitive economies than that, and you have massive draconian actions and the collateral damage alongside.
Economic systems, relationships, and processes are where small interventions – small acts at key points that proliferate through the whole network – do the best work.
|Uber is a business model that depends on a labour
force that has no power to make any claim that the
company is at all responsible for any of their
employees' assets or investments in their job. I've
ranted about this model before.
Working People’s Rights
Very few contracts are ever negotiated from a position of true equality. Owning a business, or having a secure middle management position that’s responsible for hiring in a larger company – that’s more power than an interviewee who’s been on the job market for months and is nearing the end of her savings.
Not everyone who holds that power will abuse it, but worsening labour conditions overall for folks near the margins are a sign of imbalance. A fair government should somehow have the backs of the vulnerable.
My old libertarian friends used to tell me that as long as you weren’t being oppressed by the state, you were free. You could be one of the working homeless, employed but barely able to buy food or pay rent anywhere. But you're still free.
Poppycock. Freedom isn’t an either/or of liberated/enslaved. It’s not only freedom from oppression. Freedom is a set of powers that can always grow, it’s your capacity right now and your potential to become more and other than what you are. A just society does its best to make sure our powers can always develop.
Keep Public Services Public
The myth of privatization is that everything works better in the free market. That’s generally true. But not every private market is free. A lot of public utilities – like electricity, roads and transit, education, health care – become schizophrenic when there are multiple providers all in competition.
These need to be monopolies. But they can’t be privately held corporations, because a privately held monopoly is an economic despotism, a cartel. It’s Monty Burns with the power to block out the sun.
So these public utilities need to be run by transparent, publicly accountable entities with communication channels at all levels of the hierarchy for constant feedback from the people they serve. This, to me, is the legitimate role of the state: holding the means of common goods in the public trust, which we all fund in common by paying some taxes.
|The most powerful civil rights movement since King
and Malcolm. And digital media means that we can
all be some small part of it if we wish.
These are the real cornerstone of democracy. Not elections, not representative government. Movements of ordinary people working together to voice their concerns and work for real change in their communities.
It could be to reform an oppressive security apparatus that does violence to a community. It could be to fight a government policy that enriches the already wealthy while impoverishing the poor. Or a general strike. Or a community garden. Or opening your home to refugees from a terrible war. Those are just some of my favourite examples.
Democracy is about people connecting with each other to solve each other’s problems together.
This is a simple issue. If we don’t keep our planet’s ecosystems in reasonably good shape – the species diverse, the oceans’ currents flowing and full of life, the soil nutritious, the air clean – then none of these other principles and values will make any sense.
We’ll all be dead. Humanistic politics – capitalism, communism, libertarianism, feudalism, apocalyptic American or Islamist Taliban, whatever! – forgets that without a healthy planet, none of their values matter. So we need to develop our technology to enhance the biodiversity and strength of our ecosystems.
• • •
Basically, that’s me. This is my utopia. I don’t think it’s that weird. But I often get the feeling that a lot of my views about how best we should live are pretty unusual. I just hope this moment of honesty doesn’t turn people off.