Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Answering Objections: Central State Needed for Recourse Against Localities?

OBJECTION TO LOCALISM: "In the end, the state provides a needed recourse against the abuses of petty dictators and misguided moral-crusaders. How would a system of appeals work in localism?"

ANSWER: First let's get a decent definition of what we mean by the question.  Clearly, the objector does not want any of their "rights" violated by the locality.  Localists don't either.  But who decides what one's rights are?  Or better, what rights the state will recognize?

 Rights are claims against the majority.   They are things an individual is entitled to even if the majority does not approve.   In a Republic, such as we once had in the United States, the founding document of the nation, and the states, listed what things they agreed were not subject to a majority vote.   That's the way we are supposed to still do it now, and that is the way it would be done under localism.  The difference is that for almost all matters, state courts would be responsible for deciding such cases, based on state constitutions.   Individuals aggrieved by the actions of a locality appeal to their state courts, except on matters where agents or associates of the state are interfering with their right of exit or property rights in a state which they have exited.

I know that many people, especially anarchists and near-anarchist libertarians, have very strong opinions on what their rights are and what rights their state ought to recognize.  And under localism they have a much greater chance of seeing that vision implemented.  In the meantime, states are not bound to recognize what we think our rights should be, but rather they are bound to recognize what rights are recognized by the compact which established that state, the state constitution.  If the central government could not directly impose a list of rights more to your liking under this system then know also that it could not impose one less to your liking either.

The hope that the central government would force all states to do it the way you want is traded for the near certainty that if a state did not do it the way you wanted, you could find another more to your liking.  That hope is a vain one anyway, for when the power to define rights is concentrated in one set of hands with no competition, defending rights because the stated goal, but not the real goal, of the rights-defining body.   A survey of the history of how the modern central state treats its citizens should be sufficient to disabuse the open mind to the notion of how beneficial empowering a central state to be the sole arbiter of rights would be.

The more power you put into any one institution, the more attractive a target it becomes for those who want to use it to loot and impose their own will over others.     Since "rights" under our system represent things not subject even to majority vote, the power to define "rights" is the power of dictatorship,  And the new view is that groups can have "rights", not just individuals.

This madness puts politics over justice since the various groups can then form coalitions to seize the rights-defining machinery to grant them special privileges.   Thus the central "justice" system that critics of localism say we need to protect us from abusive localities becomes itself the primary source of abuse, and one that is much harder to correct (since it is not subject to majority vote anywhere) and much harder to escape (since it applies to the entire nation).

Notice I am not saying that this is not something that can happen when the power to define rights is centralized.  Rather I am saying it is what has happened, and what must eventually happen each and every time you centralize the power to define rights.  This unfortunate pattern will repeat until some future age where human nature itself has been altered.

Only by subjecting the power to define rights to competition and the market can one hope to keep this power in its proper boundary of defending the moral order rather than undermining it.    And the plain fact is that humans will have honest disagreements about where the boundaries for "rights" are.   There may be only one right answer to that question, but rational people ought to be wary of claims from people who say they know all of those answers for all people for all times.  We group about darkly along the path to virtue and justice.   Illumination often comes in the form of learning from our mistakes and seeing others who have found a way to do things better.   That process is short-circuited in a system with a single reference point for defining the outer boundaries of rights.

There is an interlocking system of checks and balances in Localism. I don't wish to type it all out here. The book is not a long read, but I really think it would be worth your while.

The short version is that the central government only guarantees freedom of property and movement from the states. The states uphold recognized rights from violation in the localities, but localities have the right to change states, or if enough counties get together, form a new state from within the old one (some of our largest states are the worst run). States can be kicked out of the union if the other states don't like the way they treat their citizens (after all who want to leave do so plus parts of the offending state vote to split and stay with the union). Again, this is the short version, and please don't compare it to perfection, compare it to the results we have from the central state concept we have now! The book makes more sense of it than I do here.

Nothing can guarantee that abuse of rights-definition powers will never occur.   But they can be minimized.  If I must for a short while have a dictator, I should prefer a "petty dictator" whom I could easily leave (thus leaving the "dictator" with the choice of changing their ways or having declining numbers to dictate to and gain revenue from!) than a Great Dictator of the sort we have seen work their malice in the guise of some alleged higher good (such as the protection of the "Rights" of their favored groups).

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