Saturday, September 09, 2006

National Socialism in Australia Today

John Howard showed what a cunning old fox he is this week by reinstating politicians' over-generous superannuation entitlements. And not a peep of protest from Kim Beazley and his cronies either. All in all, a quite disgusting episode, which shows in microcosm two defects of our system of government.

Try this thought experiment. Imagine each voter has an electronic 'black box' that enables him or her to vote directly on each proposed law. Once a proposal gets more than 50 percent of the vote, it becomes law.

Now, who honestly believes that a proposal to pay politicians extra superannuation would really get more than 50 percent of the vote? The idea is laughable, isn't it? We know it's false, and the politicians do too.

So the first defect of the so-called 'representative' system of government is that it can and routinely does misrepresent the people's will. The people have no ability to vote on any single issue, but have to vote (when they can vote at all) on a bundle of issues all mixed in together. They don't even vote for issues, they vote for people holding a mixed grab-bag of promises and bribes, each unprincipled party swapping votes with others equally unprincipled.

As an expression of what the people want, it is incoherent and incompetent: there is no real way of knowing whether the people actually want this, or that policy. Yet government can and does routinely claim that anything and everything it does 'represents' the will of the people, for no other reason than that the government does it. As you can see, it is more of a fraudulent racket, albeit a legal one, than it is a system truly representing the will of the people.

Now let us suppose that defect is remedied: suppose every voter has an electronic black box and can vote if they want, or not if they don't want, on every proposed law. Thus we are supposing the government now truly represents the will of the majority of the people when it makes a law. So it is now no longer possible for goernment to make laws which take from the majority and give to a minority, as it does now.

That leaves the second major defect of our system of government. A majority is still able to vote itself benefits by using state force to take them under compulsion from a minority. What or who will protect the minority?

The fundamental moral rule against violent behaviour is not somehow waived just because those in favour of using force happen to be in a majority. Suppose there are 12 men, and one woman, and they vote on whether to have sex. The men vote for, and the woman votes against. According to the 'democratic' logic of the majority decision that is common in Australia politics, if the majority now force the minority, not only is it not morally wrong, it's not even factually a violation!

According to the 'democratic' logic of the welfare state, theft magically becomes non-theft if the state does it under authority of a majority decision.

Thus the idea that 'democracy' means a majority decision justifies any use of law, and therefore any use of force, against the a minority, is actually a perversion of democracy.

Fundamental freedoms and rights such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of association and assembly, the right to trial by jury, and so on, are often called democratic rights. But such fundamental rights and freedoms are not democratic in this sense: they consist of denying the right of the majority to override the freedoms of a minority. They insist that there are higher values than mere majority decisions to use force.

“The true democratic principle that none shall have power over the people, is taken to mean that none shall be able to restrain or to elude its power. The true democratic principle, that the people shall not be made to do what it does not like, it taken to mean that it shall never be required to tolerate what it does not like. The true democratic principle, that every mans' will shall be as unfettered as possible, is taken to mean that the free will of the collective people shall be fettered in nothing.” (Lord Acton)

So the second problem with our current system of government is that there is nothing in principle to restrain government from infringing the rights of minorities. The most abused minority in the last hundred years has probably been, believe it or not, business people. Being a minority, they make an easy target for the depredations of politicians prostituting the powers of the state to the grasping of greed. The population has got into the habit of voting itself favours to be paid for from the pockets of business people: forcing employers to pay their employees' tax, forcing them to pay the medical and income insurance ('workers compensation') of their employees, forcing employees to pay the retirement insurance (superannuation) of their employees, forcing employers to administer all these schemes, forcing them to pay special taxes that apply only to businesses, forcing them to pay labour costs over and above the market rate, and so on.

There is nothing in principle to distinguish this kind of majoritarian bullying and legal theft, from other majoritarian abuses in other times and places, such as the criminalisation of non-Christian religions in Dark Ages Europe, or the decision by the national socialists of Germany to exterminate the lives of Jewish citizens en masse.

The current Australian welfare state, and the national socialism of Germany under Hitler, rest on the same ethical basis, which is, that the majority have a right to use state power to force anyone else to sacrifice their values to comply with majoritarian opinion, whether religious, or political, or social. The underlying belief is unprincipled: 'might is right', without any true ethical basis - no matter what claims may be made in the name of the greater good.

Modern Australian national socialists such as Labor, Liberal, Democrats or Greens, faced with this truth, always react with indignant outrage, and resort to personal argument. That's because they have no better argument to rely on: there is no difference in principle between national socialists in Germany in the 1930s and national socialists in Australian in 2006: they believe in all the same sort of stuff requiring government control of everything, even including race-based laws for social engineering purposes!

No doubt the practical remedy of these evils is some way off yet. However that should not stop us from identifying the remedy in theory.

The libertarian remedy is, first, to understand the basic problem: people, whether in government or not, using violence or the threat of violence to get what they want. We challenge the cult of the all-knowing and all-wise state, and we challenge the pretensions to moral superiority, dressed up in appeals to 'social justice', 'the public interest', and such like, which are really no more than claims to be able to enforce opinion and to benefit vested interests.

Secondly, the libertarian remedy is to assert the fundamental right of individuals to be free from the use of force by other people, whether in government or not, unless its to stop force or fraud. This means that not only should freedom of religion be entrenched in constitutional law limiting governmental power, but so should every other human freedom, except only the freedom to initiate force or fraud against others.

This includes the right to own your own body, your own life, your own labour and the fruits of your labour, the right to make a living by consensual means without legal restriction, the right to undertake risky behaviours at your own risk, the right to price your goods and services as you see fit, and the right to consensual relations of any kind - without legal restriction by intolerant and paternalistic know-it-alls.

3 Comments:

At September 10, 2006 7:17 pm, Blogger Sukrit Sabhlok said...

Well put! Though the superannuation example is perhaps not the best one. Arguably, politicians should be given salaries comparable to the private sector, but perks (eg. subsidised housing) should be minimised.

 
At September 10, 2006 7:44 pm, Blogger Sukrit Sabhlok said...

PS - a warm welcome to Justin. I saw some of his work at libertarian.org.au and asked if he'd like to blog here. He's currently in NSW (I think).

 
At September 14, 2006 7:46 pm, Blogger skepticlawyer said...

And Justin, unless everything about you is classified, maybe a bit of detail in your profile?

 

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