For Neocameralism, Against Morality

Morality, a consistent morality, was one of the reasons that I long ago became a libertarian, and then an anarchist. I took the precepts of morality as I received them, and pushed them hard. Thus, I accepted (and I still accept) the libertarian argument that taxation is theft. If taking property by force is wrong, then voting about it does not make it right. You can see such arguments widely in the libertarian ideosphere; I am certainly not alone. (I would guess that most libertarians are highly intelligent moralists, usually self-educated.)

There is a big problem, though, with morals as a foundation for politics. It is this: it may be that a moral society cannot last. That is, that there is a "tragedy of the commons" with morality itself. It may be the case that a consistently moral society cannot compete against immoral societies. One example of this is the common idea that a anarchic protection agency would not be able to effectively defend territory against state incursion. Another example is the conservative idea that civilization itself is created by patriarchy. If that is so, then a progressive civilization is not possible in the long run. Yet another is the idea that the welfare state is not compatible with free immigration.

To take a case I know I have written about some years ago: taxation. To many people, it seems commonsensical that that a state that will not tax will be beaten militarily by other states not so squeamish. But here is me, 15 years ago:

[Q:] How do libertarians feel about taxes?

The state must initiate coercion to tax. As such, taxes should be abolished.

[Q:] I'm for cutting taxes, but as a practical matter, how do we do it?

This is not a practical FAQ. Morally speaking, we should end all taxes first and figure out how to solve the resulting economic mess later.

[Q:] Aren't you going too far?

For those in the statist mindset? Yes. But you see, they DON'T BELIEVE in one of our basic moral axioms.

For us? No. Once you identify what is moral -- what is acceptable and not -- then logic compels you to accept the social and political effects of your morality.

I became an anarchist, in part, because anarchy offers a partial solution to the problem of suicidally moral government. Anarchists conceive of protection agencies as government-like, but still corporations subject to market forces, including most particularly competition. So, they can have policies, which would be immoral if forceable imposed. The moral objectionableness is reduced, at least, because the affiliation of the customer with the agency is (to some degree) voluntary.

Of course, there are still moral problems, even with anarchy. For example, what if a customer only has one protection agency to choose, or two, even. Two does not seem like much choice -- might be a choice between "pay 30% income tax" and "pay 31% income tax". And of course, there is the lingering concern that anarchy itself is unstable; that the agencies would not be able to defeat a protostate because they are hamstrung morally.

With relatively modest moral assumptions, neocameralism offers us a way out of this conundrum. Note that the defining feature of democracy, including the chimerical "limited government", as well as anarchy, is that government is based on the will of the governed. Thus, it is transparent to the morals of its citizens or customers. That is, there can be no unpopular law. (This is in the abstract. In the real world, "friction" of various kinds means there can be unpopular law down to a certain minority level of support. However, abstractly at least, the principle applies.)

By contrast, in neocameralism the source of state power is not the subjects; it is an earlier conquest. The end of power is profit to the stockholders. Note two things. First, both of these are invariant. Because they are stable (unlike popular opinion), the law will also be stable. Second, note that neither the justification for power, nor the ends to which it is put, are derived from moral reasoning. They simply are. They bear no relationship to morality at all.

Thus, it is possible for a neocameral society to have laws that are not possible in democracy or in anarchy. This would be any law which is profit-enhancing, but which is immoral. Obviously, if people are unanimously against the law, it will be abolished; but even a minority who support would be sufficient to uphold it so long as the sovcorp's owners wanted it. Or, alternatively, if it was not sufficiently immoral that men would refuse to enforce it.

For example, consider laws controlling immigration. It is certainly possible to be against them in the abstract while nonetheless enforcing them, or supporting their enforcement, as upholding the rule of law. That is, while they may be objectionable, at the same time, it is even more objectionable to have a body of unenforced law.

Thus, it is possible for a neocameral society, even composed of entirely moral men, to implement laws that no person holds as moral!

Now, most of us intuitively sense this, at least in the case of bad laws, immoral laws. This is our progressive education speaking: cherchez la genocide, it whispers. What, the state can fire up the ovens, and nobody can stop it?? Well, yes, it can. (That it has incentive not to -- well, progressive education does not teach anything about incentives and their effects.)

But I think few us consider the case of good laws, or at least, necessary laws, which are nonetheless hard to square morally. In progressive terms, the category is empty; it's oxymoronic, because the law and righteousness (social justice) are one. As anti-progressives, we should reject such reasoning, and look at the case with fresh eyes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Or you could simply see stability/effectiveness as a higher moral principle than others.