The Freedom Universal

Deeper Discussion

We are increasingly overwhelmed by a deluge of apparently insurmountable problems. When asked to name the single greatest social evil, the answer given by most people is violence (in its various forms). In addition to the obvious reasons, there are also deeper reasons why we should oppose violence: the pattern of advances and declines of civilizations throughout history teaches us that the rises and falls of societies are neither inevitable nor random, but depend on the choices we make. When given a choice, most people choose good over evil. But to choose good, we need to be free to choose. Violence robs us of our freedom to choose. But more: violence inverts the incentives that operate between people in peaceful contexts, destroys the natural harmony of interests between people, and places the aggressor in the position of master over his slave, the victim—a position of inequality. Thus violence and equality are inherently opposed and incompatible.

Furthermore, many of our thorniest social problems have their roots in breaches of individual sovereignty and equality before the law. If a way can be found to reduce or prevent such breaches, we will have found a powerful means to increase equality, reduce violence, restore healthy incentives, and thereby greatly improve our individual and social well-being. The Freedom Universal Constitution provides such a solution.

The Freedom Universal Constitution has several features essential to its success: Firstly, it is a deep solution: it addresses the key social issues and dynamics in an integrated, non-contradictory way. Secondly, it is formulated in terms of concepts and language that have universal mainstream cultural appeal and support. Thirdly, it is elegant in its simplicity: even children can grasp its essence. Fourthly, it is designed to be resilient and robust to social conditions, both during the initial phase-in period and during social upheavals. Finally, it is straightforward to implement.

The Freedom Universal is inspired by the vision of a society that honors and respects the precious, sacred, irreplaceable value that is every human life, recognizing that human beings are ends in themselves, not means to the ends of others. It is a society where we deal with each other as human beings in the highest sense, respecting each other's humanity—our capacity for reason and free will—with all that entails. This means barring violence and coercion as legitimate means of obtaining our ends. When we bar violence as an option, the only alternative is to deal with each other through voluntary means. That changes everything. When we deal with each other voluntarily, instead of by force, our interests, instead of conflicting, are in harmony. Our social incentives, instead of operating to destroy us, work to our mutual benefit, creating the benevolence and abundance of material and spiritual goods that is our human potential.

__________________________________

 

Violence is widely understood to be the single most important problem facing society. We cannot make much progress on other social problems until we have made significant progress on reducing violence, anarchy, and chaos. The Freedom Universal Constitution addresses the problem of violence from several interrelated directions:

  1. A deeper understanding of how the context of social interaction—freedom or violence—radically alters social dynamics.
  2. A new understanding of the nature of discrimination, and its inverse relationship to violence.
  3. A deeper understanding of equality before the law, and its inverse relationship to violence.
  4. A refined understanding of the universal ethic of reciprocity, and its inverse relationship to violence.
  5. A new framework and mechanism for transitioning society away from violence and towards voluntarism and its blessings of freedom, justice, and prosperity for all. This innovative new constitution constitutes the first practical, consistent politico-legal implementation of the universal ethic of reciprocity as society's ruling system of governance.
  6. The crucial importance of depth, precision and consistency. It is the lack of depth, precision and consistency in our politico-legal institutions that is responsible for their failure to stand the test of time.
  7. The virtue of simplicity. The Freedom Universal Constitution is simple enough to be understood by children, yet sophisticated enough to deal with social realities in all their complexity. A constitution that is widely understood is more likely to be adopted and to stand the test of time.

As you read on, you will encounter a number of surprising, even counterintuitive ideas. Breakthrough advances often require looking at old problems in new ways, being willing to temporarily suspend judgment while exploring unexpected new results. Give yourself time and space to contemplate, and look at these issues from all sides—the rewards are well worth it. If our existing political institutions have persistently failed to effectively address our social problems, perhaps now is the time to consider new perspectives...

The Context of Freedom

The context of social interaction—either freedom, or violence—fundamentally determines social dynamics. In a context of freedom—mutually voluntary social interaction—a natural harmony of interests operates between people. In a context of violence, by contrast, an inherent conflict of interests operates between people. We cannot make sense of social dynamics without considering the context—freedom or violence—of social transactions. Because violence has been the dominant social context throughout history, social analysis has taken a context of violence for granted. This unidentified assumption has bedevilled social analysis, and therefore social policy, leading to flawed theories and doomed social policies.

Because the assumption of a context of violence is so deeply-ingrained in human experience, in our belief systems, in our theories about human nature and society, and in our political systems, it is very challenging to imagine an alternate view of reality based not on violence, but on freedom. But if we want to make progress on the problems that plague our societies, this is the assumption, more than any other, that needs to be challenged. As long as we continue to base our social theories and institutions on a context of violence, we will continue to create violent societies. Only when we begin to base our social theories and institutions on a context of freedom, will we begin to create free societies.

The presence or absence of force changes everything. In a context of violence, one person's gain is another's loss, selfishness is an evil, the weak lose to the strong, property is acquired through theft, differences between people are a curse and a threat, discrimination is harmful and destructive. A context of freedom reverses these dynamics. In a context of freedom—of mutually voluntary interaction—one person's gain is simultaneously another's gain, selfishness is a good, the weak benefit from the strong, property is acquired through production and trade, differences between people are a blessing and an opportunity, and discrimination is beneficial and productive.

The Ethic of Reciprocity

We are all familiar with Lord Acton's observation that power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. We are also all familiar with the universal ethic of reciprocity (the Golden Rule). Political power is inversely related to the ethic of reciprocity. The more we concentrate political power in the hands of the few, the more we violate the ethic of reciprocity, turn people against each other, and create powerful incentives to hurt rather than help each other. The Freedom Universal dilutes, devolves, and disperses power by giving each individual the same power as every other individual—true equality before the law—and thereby creates an optimal environment in which the ethic of reciprocity can flourish, bringing people together, and creating powerful incentives for people to help each other.

The Nature of Discrimination

Discrimination is a positive. The term 'discrimination' is used here in its general sense of making distinctions. Discrimination in its pejorative sense—bias and prejudice—is rightly condemned. We all discriminate all the time—when we choose our friends, what we buy, what we eat, the principles we live by, when we distinguish right from wrong. Making distinctions and acting on them is a fundamental requirement of life. This meaning of discrimination—distinguishing between the available options and choosing those most appropriate to our purposes—is natural, healthy, and good. Every action of a living being necessarily involves discrimination. The most highly evolved life forms have the most developed discriminating abilities. The human mind is, in essence, a highly sophisticated tool for making distinctions between the options available to us, and choosing those most appropriate to our purposes. We admire people who act with wise discernment, and who have discriminating taste.

Of course, we need to distinguish the general principle of discrimination from how it is applied in particular cases. Sometimes, we discriminate in unhealthy ways—such as bias and prejudice—that harm us and others. But that is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater and oppose the principle of discrimination. On the contrary, it is reason to learn how to apply the principle more appropriately. In fact, when we examine unhealthy, harmful cases of discrimination—such as judging persons merely on the basis of a single dimension, such as their membership of a group (ethnicity, gender, religion, etc.), we discover that what's wrong with this kind of discrimination is that it is primitive, crude, and simplistic. In other words, it oversimplifies reality and therefore results in false or suboptimal judgments and actions. More developed, sophisticated, complex discrimination explores reality from multiple dimensions, and thus considers persons not merely on the basis of their membership of a group, but on the basis of a whole range of individual attributes, and thus judges and treats people as unique individuals, which produces far better, and more just, results for everyone. Instead of falsely blaming discrimination for social evils, we need to understand that what is responsible for these social evils is a deficiency of discrimination—that what should be condemned is degenerate, primitive, crude, simplistic, inappropriate discrimination. The solution is not less discrimination, but more—more developed, sophisticated, complex, appropriate discrimination. We need to encourage ongoing refinement of our understanding of reality, of ourselves, and others. Deeper, better, more refined understanding means deeper, better, more refined discrimination.

Furthermore, choice and discrimination are indivisibly connected—they imply each other. To make a choice, we need to distinguish the various options, we need to compare similarities and differences, we need to discriminate. When we limit a person's ability to discriminate, we limit their ability to make appropriate choices, we limit their freedom—we limit their ability to live. The entire division of labor economy is built on ever more refined, complex discrimination, and would be impossible without it. Freedom means the freedom to discriminate—the freedom to choose. Freedom of thought, of expression, of association, of assembly, of movement, to vote, the right to life, and property rights, all require the freedom to discriminate. No freedom—indeed no life—is possible without the freedom to discriminate.

Precisely because discrimination is so essential to life, it is of the utmost importance that we strongly protect every individual's right to discriminate according to their own best judgment, and resist any attempt to force a person's choices. Discrimination is a positive, which is why force is a negative—because force limits our ability to discriminate, limits the diversity of our options, and thus our ability to live. The context of force changes discrimination from a positive to a negative.

The Nature and Role of Government

The question then arises, what about the government? The government has a monopoly on force—the overwhelming force of the police and the military. Government orders are not optional or voluntary. We are forced to comply, or face the unpleasant consequences. In other words, the institution of government is inherently coercive.

The greatest threat to our freedom, and life itself, is violence. The purpose of government is to secure our lives and our freedom by protecting us against violence. However, because the government has a monopoly on force, the institution of government itself tends to become the greatest source of violence in society. This past century alone, more than a hundred million innocent people were killed by governments. Private violence is negligible by comparison. Therefore, strong and effective constraints are needed on governments' use of force.

The presence of force changes everything. When we are no longer free to choose, but are forced against our better judgment to follow the orders of government, we tend to unleash deadly evils like Nazi Germany, apartheid South Africa, and the countless other horrifying genocides that continue to this day. Clearly, state-sanctioned discrimination is an intolerable evil. Force and discrimination are a vicious mix—because force invariably produces primitive, crude, simplistic, degenerate forms of discrimination that are incompatible with freedom and with life.

The solution is to prohibit government discrimination, but allow private discrimination that does not involve the use of force. We cannot prohibit private discrimination, because to the extent that we do so, we make life impossible. Similarly, to the extent that we limit the ability of the government to discriminate, we limit its ability to act—because every action inherently involves discrimination. This is the key foundational insight the Freedom Universal is built on. By prohibiting coercive government discrimination, while protecting voluntary private discrimination, the Freedom Universal Constitution constrains violence and coercion, and safeguards our lives and our freedom.

But we need government. Without some form of governance (whether traditional nation-state government, or other forms of governance such as proprietary communities), society collapses into anarchy and chaos. We need government for law and order. We need government to protect us against criminals and those who would use force against us. We need government to address various cooperation/coordination problems. So we need some exceptions to the general prohibition against government discrimination, in order to let the government perform its legitimate functions—those that do not involve the initiation of force against innocents. The Freedom Universal Constitution prohibits the government from discriminating, except where discrimination is necessary to fulfill its legitimate function of protecting persons against violence. This is a reversal of the traditional approach, which allows the government to discriminate in general, with a few special exceptions. The choice between these two alternative approaches has profoundly important consequences for a society's freedom, justice, and prosperity.

The Freedom Universal Constitution prohibits the government from discriminating, by requiring it to treat all persons equally. This eliminates not only unjust coercive discrimination, but also the special interest lobbies that corrupt our public institutions and harm our society. Instead of special rules for special interests, the Freedom Universal Constitution creates a level playing field where all persons can participate on an equal footing before the law.

The Concept of Equality

It is important to distinguish the concept of equality before the law, from the concept of equality of outcome. Equality before the law means that differences between people are ignored by the law and by the government—people are treated as if they were the same—discrimination by the law and by the government is prohibited. Equality of outcome, by contrast, means that differences between people are eliminated by the law and by the government—people are made to be the same—discrimination by the law and by the government is required. There is only one way to actually eliminate differences between people: force. To eliminate differences between people requires taking from those who have more of something, and giving to those who have less of it. If you have more beauty or brains or money than I do, then to eliminate the difference, I need to take some of your beauty, brains, or money for myself. Would you voluntarily give up your beauty, brains, or money? No? Then the only way I can get what's yours is to use force. Equality of outcome can not be achieved without large-scale, violent totalitarianism. An egalitarian policy of equality of outcome requires large-scale redistribution, which necessarily requires coercion to be implemented. The deeper question is, Why would one want to eliminate differences between people in the first place? Our differences are what makes us unique individuals. Our differences are what makes us different from an undifferentiated swarm of identical ants. Our differences are what makes each of us precious and irreplaceable. The real question is, Is the context one of freedom or one of violence? In a context of violence, differences are indeed a threat and a curse. In a context of freedom, however, differences are an opportunity—and a blessing.

One person using force to take what belongs to another is theft, and is universally condemned. What then, if a group of persons gets together to forcibly take what belongs to others? That is still theft, of course—irrespective of whether the theft is committed by one person or by many, or whether what is stolen is taken from one person or from many. What if a group of persons gets together and hires a third party to act on its behalf and forcibly take what belongs to others and hand it over to the group? That is still theft, of course—irrespective of whether the theft is committed directly, or indirectly through a third party. What if the third party is the government? If a special interest group gets the government to forcibly take (whether by means of taxes or other methods) what belongs to others and hand it over to the special interest group (in the form of subsidies or other benefits), is that any less a case of theft than if it is committed by ordinary criminals?

In a game, the purpose of the referee is to make sure the same rules are applied equally to all players. If the referee were to favor some of the players over others by applying different rules to different players, there would be an outcry of protest against the injustice. But what if special interest groups get the government to apply a different, more favorable set of rules and regulations to them than to other members of society? Is that any less unjust? What is more, in the case of a private game the context is voluntary, and the players have a choice: they can refuse to play under unfair rules. Whereas in the case of government, the context is not voluntary, and we do not have a choice: we cannot refuse government orders. If the government creates special rules to favor its special interests, we are forced to comply. There is no option to "not play". Some may argue that citizens control their government by means of the electoral process, legal review, etc. but we all know that things do not change much irrespective of which politician or which political party is in power. The political incentive system in most societies is such that special interests and corruption are built into the system, irrespective of who voters vote for at elections. The political system itself needs to change.

In these and other ways, the use of force remains widespread even in our freest societies. Special interest groups use the force of government to take for themselves what belongs to others, and to create different, more favorable rules for themselves than for others. These institutionalized forms of violence may not be obvious, but they are no less destructive than more obvious forms of violence. The Freedom Universal outlaws all types of coercive discrimination and special interests, thus creating an equal, level playing field where no one is advantaged or disadvantaged through coercive means.

Caring for the Disadvantaged in a Free Society

The question then immediately arises, What about the disadvantaged? If the government cannot discriminate and redistribute in favor of the poor, the sick, the elderly, then who will look after them? The good news is, the weakest members of society are far better off in a free society than in a violent society. The statistics on this are now irrefutable. Nor should this surprise us. Why would anyone—including the disadvantaged—be better off under violence than under freedom? In a violent society, the strongest win, the weakest lose (but even the strongest are worse off than they would be in a free society). In a free society, everyone wins. The reason for this was identified two centuries ago, and is known as the Law of Comparative Advantage, which demonstrates that we all need and benefit from each other—provided the context is one of freedom. (Also see this intriguing exploration of why few people understand the Law of Comparative Advantage.)

The disadvantaged are better off in a free society, because people in a free society are benevolent. People in a free society help each other—because it is in their own interest to do so. People in a free society naturally adopt the universal ethic of reciprocity. Again, this fact is borne out by the statistics. Not only is everyone wealthier in a free society, but free people also voluntarily help each other more. There are now at least two million charities and nonprofits serving the needs of people all over the world, with the vast majority of these operating from the freest and wealthiest countries. What is more, these private philanthropic organizations tend to be more responsive and effective than government at serving those in need. For every dollar donated to philanthropic causes, a much greater percentage reaches the intended recipients, and produces better outcomes, than if the same dollar were channelled through government programs via taxes. On average, the majority—over two thirds—of our taxes are consumed by the bureaucracy. Less than one third—under 30%—reaches the intended recipients. Private charities, by contrast, funnel more than three quarters—over 75%—of their donations to the intended beneficiaries. In addition, private philanthropic organizations operate with far greater transparency and accountability than government programs, plus they compete with other charities, all of which provides strong incentives for achieving the best result possible for every dollar donated. The moral of the story is that we could achieve far greater social benefits for less than a third of the cost of the taxes we currently pay.

Taxes are taken from us by force and used in ways and for purposes we seldom agree with. Private philanthropic organizations do not take our money by force, and offer us a choice in how and where our money is used. Here, as elsewhere, the principle holds true that freedom works—violence does not. Violence is both immoral and impractical. In every social issue, we need to ask ourselves, Does the proposed solution require us to resort to violence? Can anything ever justify using violence against our own fellow citizens?

Equality before the law prohibits violence. Equality of outcome requires violence. These two forms of equality are therefore diametrically opposed. Paradoxically, those societies that have attempted policies directed at equality of outcome, have ironically tended to produce greater social inequality (in addition to many other problems), while those societies that have politico-legal systems closer to equality before the law, have tended also to produce greater social equality (plus many other benefits). Coercive societies are characterized by ruling elites that dominate disempowered masses. By contrast, free societies based upon the rule of law are characterized by a large, dominant middle class. Thus equality before the law is a win-win social system. Freedom is both moral and practical.

Not only are free societies more benevolent to the disadvantaged, but the disadvantaged also do not remain that way. Free societies steadily transform the disadvantaged into the advantaged by creating more for everyone, and by developing breakthrough technologies that help those in need. Thus free societies have far fewer disadvantaged than is the case for unfree societies. The worst human tragedies occur precisely in the most unfree, violent societies. Thus if we truly care about and want to help the disadvantaged, the most urgent, pressing need is for us to free up our societies.

Creating Freedom

Our societies suffer a stark disconnect between rhetoric and reality. Each election cycle, politicians promise us they will solve our problems—blaming other politicians, and claiming they will do better if we elect them instead of the opposition. Yet year after year, decade after decade, the status quo and our social problems stubbornly persist. The time has come to acknowledge that our problems have little to do with politicians. Our problems are caused by the system the politicians operate in—more specifically, the incentive system. As long as we leave the incentives unchanged, we will keep getting the same results, irrespective of who is in power. It is the incentive system that needs to change.

The political incentive system of most countries encourages special treatment of special interests. Because of the government's monopoly on force, because of its exclusive authority to enforce its orders, special interest groups try to get their hands on the levers of power by lobbying the government for special privileges that are not granted to the rest of society. Such special favors violate equality before the law, upset the level playing field, and create coerced, unjust inequalities that the disadvantaged are powerless to resist—with destructive consequences for justice, social harmony, and wealth creation. Politics and special interests are a deadly mixture. Allowing special interests in politics builds corruption and coercion into the political process, and is responsible—directly or indirectly—for the majority of our political and social problems. Special interests and the rule of law are fundamentally incompatible.

It is precisely because of the widely-recognized harm caused by political special interests that various efforts have been made to somehow constrain them. Unfortunately, these efforts have failed, since the reforms have been led by the very people whose power needs to be constrained—politicians and their special interests. That is like asking prisoners to design their own prison, or to guard themselves! Instead of political window dressing, the issue needs to be addressed in a direct, fundamental, and principled way, and the reform effort needs to be broad-based, grassroots, bottom-up. That is the mission of the Institute for Freedom and the Freedom Universal Network.

The Freedom Universal fundamentally changes the political incentive system from a context of violence to a context of freedom for all. It outlaws all forms of coercive discrimination and special interests, thus creating an equal, level playing field where no one is advantaged or disadvantaged through coercive means. This principle of equality before the law constitutes the core of the rule of law. The rule of law has been identified by empirical researchers as the key feature of healthy, flourishing societies. This is not surprising, since a rule of law society is a society that has found a way to contain the fundamental social evil—violence and chaos—and subordinate it to institutions of law and order. The Freedom Universal is essentially a mechanism for instituting the rule of law in society. It goes much further than existing institutions, by more precisely defining the nature of the rule of law and equality before the law, and by providing innovative, effective mechanisms for implementing the rule of law in practice. And it does so in a groundbreaking new constitutional framework that is so simple that children can understand it. By providing the means for society to evolve the rule of law to a higher level than ever before, the Freedom Universal Constitution powerfully constrains the fundamental social evil—violence—and sets us free to produce and enjoy the abundant blessings of freedom...

Next: The Meta-Problem

© 2006 The Institute for Freedom | Terms | Privacy | Site Map