ETHICS, LAW & GOVERNMENT
By Robert E. Podolsky
As most people are aware, ethics are the means by which we decide what actions are permissible and what actions are not. What is less known is the fact that every ethic consists of two parts:
- A value that defines what it is that we want more of in our lives, or what we wish to maximize, and
- A belief, or system of beliefs, that describes what actions we are to take to obtain more of the value that we seek.
Still less often recognized is the fact that an ethic may be valid or invalid. Valid ethics produce the desired results – an increase in the values sought. Invalid ethics produce the opposite effect – a lessening of that which is sought or desired. As an example, consider the ethic adopted by our country’s founders. The value they wished to maximize was freedom for the country’s people (except possibly slaves and women). The belief system was based on the principles of a democratic republic honoring majority rule. What has been the outcome? Each year but two (1865 and 1920) we have had less freedom than the year before.
Today, through the proliferation of ever more restrictive laws, almost every aspect of our lives is regulated or controlled by our federal, state, county, or municipal governments. Without government permission we cannot own property, drive a car, board a plane, alter our home, open a bank account, operate a business, ingest prescribed medication, carry a firearm, or do any of a thousand other things that our forefathers and foremothers would have considered to be our inalienable rights. In short, the founders of our country chose to adopt an ethic that is invalid – because its adoption produced the opposite effect of that desired.
While we are on the subject of ethics, let’s consider two other specific ethics that are especially relevant to an understanding of the dilemma that humanity currently faces. The first I shall refer to as the Power Ethic. This ethic seeks to maximize power over others in the hands of those who adopt it. The belief system that supports this ethic can be summarized by the statement, “Might makes right”. In other words, those who can afford to buy weaponry and to pay or coerce young men and women to use those arms in battle have the right to exercise power over others for whatever reasons they wish. This is the ethic adopted by those who invented government as-we-know-it in Sumer eight thousand years ago. This ethic is still the creed of those who run the governments of the world today.
At first it might seem that the Power Ethic is valid – because, indeed, those who have adopted it have succeeded in accumulating more and more power over their fellow men and women. But there are secondary consequences. Included among these are wars, terrorism, slavery, hunger, poverty, international strife, drug addiction, interpersonal violence, bureaucracy, oligarchy, environmental degradation, and all manner of crime. If the macroscopic trend continues it is more than likely that the end result will be the total annihilation of all human life on our planet – thus reducing the earth to a radioactive cinder. Like a ubiquitous parasite, those who have adopted the Power Ethic will destroy their host and themselves with it. So in the end the ethic is not valid.
By contrast, consider an ethic that chooses creativity and its logical equivalents as the values to be maximized. Such resources as love, awareness, objective truth, and evolution may be considered as logical equivalents of creativity, because whenever one of these resources is increased they are all increased, and vice versa. John David Garcia, the brilliant author of Creative Transformation, called this ethic the Evolutionary Ethic, so I will do likewise. We might note at this point that all prosperity, and ultimately all happiness, derives from someone’s creativity. The belief system that empowers this ethic begins with the notion that an act is good if it increases creativity or any of its logical equivalents for at least one person without limiting or diminishing creativity for anyone. From this definition a broad range of principles can be derived by simple logic. This ethic, it turns out, is valid. Curiously, the adoption of this ethic generally maximizes prosperity and happiness, even though these are not logical equivalents of creativity. In fact, ethics based on the maximization of prosperity and happiness are not valid – producing poverty and unhappiness instead. From this point on I shall use the terms ethical and unethical in reference to this ethic specifically.
There are several other valid ethics which I choose not to discuss in this article – except to note that each of them proves, upon close examination, to be logical equivalents of the Evolutionary Ethic in that they call for the same behavioral decisions when deciding between alternate courses of action.
From the foregoing we can see that humanity’s BIG PROBLEM is the fact that the world’s governments, without exception, have chosen the Power Ethic as their de facto basis rather than the Evolutionary Ethic or one of its logical equivalents. The BIG QUESTION that humanity faces today is whether this choice is irreversible – and if not, what we must do to avoid the doom that the Power Ethic is leading us toward.
GOVERNMENT BY LAW
In an ethical society freedom is limited by ethical law. Those who wish to behave in a parasitic or predatory manner are forbidden to do so. The mistake of our founding fathers was to maximize freedom in such a way that the most predatory, parasitic, and generally unethical persons were permitted to dictate the law, thereby making the rules that allowed the ultra-wealthy to dominate the rest of us. We must reverse this trend if humanity is to survive, let alone thrive. To achieve this end we must understand the nature of ethical law and refute the validity of unethical law. To aid in clarifying this distinction, I shall refer to unethical laws as government edicts, or simply as edicts.
In making this distinction let’s ask the question: What is law? Does a person who has the resources to exercise power over others have the right to do so? If so, might makes right, and anyone who can afford to buy weapons and persuade others to use them to enforce their will has a right to so. This is the premise upon which all of today’s governments are founded. This has been the true basis of law throughout the world for at least eight thousand years, since government was invented in Sumer .
If we reject the validity of this definition, and indeed we should, what is the alternative? To answer this question properly, we note first that all law presumes the use of force or power over others. But it takes only a simple exercise of logic to see that the exercise of power over others is only ethical in self defense against someone who has initiated or threatened the use of force for their own purposes. Therefore ethical laws are only those that provide defense against such unethical acts.
Since everyone has the right to defend themselves against the use of violence, it follows that everyone has the right to delegate to others their authority to defend themselves. From this we conclude that all ethical laws embody this principle: All ethical laws, all legitimate laws, represent a contract under which a group of individuals, each having the right of self defense, agrees to enforce a mutual defense pact. Ethical law can exist for this purpose alone.
Furthermore, we note that all existing laws, and edicts, forbid some act or permit the act only when a tax is paid to the government. Thus, laws and edicts fall into two categories delineated by the Latin names of the categories of acts which they forbid:
- Mala in se are acts generally recognized to be evil in and of themselves. These forbidden acts include murder, rape, torture, slavery, theft, robbery, fraud, assault, and a host of related acts long ago recognized as evils by the general public. The forbidding of mala in se is the basis of all legitimate laws – all other laws comprising artifacts of the Power Ethic.
- Mala prohibita are acts which are not evil in and of themselves; but which have been forbidden because someone wants to impose their will upon someone else. The vast majority of these Power Ethic edicts, forbidding mala prohibita, are readily recognized by one or more of three characteristics:
a. These edicts take resources (money, for example) away from one group of individuals, who own them, and bestow them upon another group of individuals, who do not own them. Taxes, in their various forms, comprise most of these instances. Government “takings” by eminent domain are another example.
b. These edicts forbid acts which are ethical and/or require acts which are unethical.
c. The enactment of these edicts requires the delegation to a governing body of authority which the legislators do not possess as individuals. In other words, they permit groups of people (e.g. legislators and law enforcement officials) to commit acts which would be illegal if performed by them as individuals.
From the foregoing we can logically conclude that the actions required for the enforcement of edicts forbidding mala prohibita are themselves mala in se. From these simple considerations we can now describe how our legal system must change if we are ever to live in an ethical society. The following description is not sufficient for the creation of an ethical society, but it is necessary. Absent these changes, those who believe that might makes right will continue their parasitic depredations, and the other changes that are necessary (and sufficient) for the emergence of an ethical society will never take place.
CHANGE THE LAW
If we are ever to live in a just, ethical society, the law must be changed. Indeed, the legal system itself must be changed. Stated briefly, this means that we must stop enforcing laws against mala prohibita and delete these edicts from the law books. Let’s examine more closely what such an undertaking entails. We start by reviewing the definition of an ethical act: An act is ethical if it increases creativity or any of its logical equivalents for at least one person, including the person acting, without limiting or diminishing the creativity of anyone.
The following secondary principles follow logically from the definition above and are specifically relevant to the actions of government or the state.
- Ownership is absolute:
The first requirement for the formation of a just society is that the public understand what is at stake. The basic principles of ethics and law are simple. They can be taught to children at an early age, beginning with the concept that ownership is absolute. Ownership is not a privilege granted by government – and it may not legitimately be denied or taken away by government except under the following two special circumstances: (a) when the purpose of such confiscation is restitution, whereby property that has been stolen by force, coercion, deceit, or edict-based ploy is returned to its rightful owners or (b) when the property confiscated is used by someone to violate another’s rights, as when a law enforcement person disarms a violent or threatening perpetrator. Any grade-schooler can understand this. It is why as small children we feel violated when our parents insist we share something that we had been told we owned.
- Violation of ownership is theft – and theft is unethical:
As a logical consequence, property taxes, estate and inheritance taxes, duties, tariffs, and sales taxes must be abolished, thus acknowledging that government holds no ownership interest in the property currently being taxed. Of course the same principle applies to all other taxes as well.
Under our current system, all real property, i.e. real estate, is taxed by government entities, usually at the county level; such taxes constitute a form of rent paid by the would-be owner of the property. This practice would be appropriate if government owned the property. But in reality, government owns nothing that it has not taken from its rightful owners by deceit, force or coercion.
- Ongoing theft is slavery:
When someone takes another’s money or property by force or coercion, the theft is called robbery. When this occurs on an ongoing basis, the theft comprises an act of slavery. Thus the taxation of revenue, as in the case of income taxes, is a case at point – it is slavery, a malum in se, and must be abolished for an ethical society to exist.
- Unethical means can never achieve ethical ends.
- All ethical means are ethical ends in themselves.
- The exercise of power over others (coercion) is unethical except in self defense.
- No individual has a right to perform any unethical act.
- No individual can delegate to another a right that he/she does not possess.
- No group (and therefore no government agency) can ethically perform acts which would be unethical if performed by an individual.
- No government has a right to perform unethical acts.
- Acts of government must be ethical to be legitimate – and therefore government acts which are not ethical are not legitimate.
- Only enactment of ethical laws and their enforcement are legitimate acts of government – and therefore written government mandates that allow government to steal from or enslave individuals are not legitimate laws. They are, rather, illegitimate edicts.
- Government edicts constitute predatory manipulations of the public in the service of special interests.
- The same reasoning applies to unethical regulations created and enforced by all government agencies.
- From the above principles we can logically conclude that (1) all legitimate laws must be ethical and that (2) it is unethical, and hence illegitimate for government to enact predatory edicts in the name of law.
Based on the preceding principles, we can now begin to sort out the specific categories of laws that are legitimate from the illegitimate edicts. The short list is comprised of those laws that are legitimate:
- Laws forbidding the initiation or threat of interpersonal violence.
- Laws forbidding theft, burglary, robbery, fraud, and contractual deception.
- Laws defining ethical contract relations.
- Laws defining ethical judicial procedure.
- Laws forbidding unethical acts of government.
- Laws providing ethical non-monopolistic services on a voluntary subscription basis.
- Laws protecting privacy.
It is tempting to say that all other laws are bogus, but it is possible that some valid forms of law may be mistakenly omitted from the above list. So to set the record straight, here is a list (probably incomplete) of some types of government edicts that are clearly illegitimate:
- All laws permitting slavery, bondage, and involuntary servitude, be it full-time or part-time, whole-body or partial. All taxes: direct, indirect, and hidden, fall into this category.
- All laws that would take a resource away from someone who owns it and gives it, directly or indirectly, to one who does not. Taxes, tariffs, and real estate takings are specifically included in this category, as are all government sponsored subsidies, foreign aid, charity, and “bailouts”. All government activities paid for by confiscatory taxes are included.
- All laws regulating trade by imposing duties, taxes, or other fees that raise consumer prices on all goods or on specific goods selected by the regulating agency.
- Laws mandating trade embargos or sanctions.
- Laws that nurture parasitism at home or abroad.
- Laws requiring the purchase of permits before the owner of a property can alter or repair an item of real property.
- Laws requiring government inspection of real property that has been modified or repaired.
- All zoning and land-use laws.
- Laws requiring acquisition and use of a social security number or comparable identifier.
- Laws permitting surveillance, search, and seizure without probable cause and due process. All laws permitting government access to private records without probable cause fall into this category.
- Laws forbidding the use of strong encryption of private records and those forbidding the sale of software that provides such encryption.
- All Laws permitting “emergency powers” permitting suspension of these legal limitations of government power.
- All laws proposing to regulate the “professions”.
- Every kind of licensing law, including (but not limited to) drivers’ licenses, business licenses, professional licenses, hunting and fishing licenses, automobile registration laws, and laws mandating various insurances, such as automotive liability insurance, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation insurance.
- Laws providing financial nurturance of the sick, the poor, the elderly, the unemployed, the business failure, the bankrupt bank, the collapsing foreign government, etc. These are not legitimate functions of government under any circumstances.
- Our entire system of government-run courts must be dismantled and replaced with a new private system, paid for by voluntary subscriptions; else judges will continue to have conflicts of interest when judging cases involving the practice of taxation. In the meantime, tax evasion defendants must demand that judges in such cases recuse themselves, because their salaries are directly at stake in the outcome.
It should be obvious to the reader that the changes to the law and to the legal system outlined above will be abhorrent to those who seek power over others and who profit from the depredations of government. Those in power today will stop at nothing to remain in power and to sustain their policies of slavery and corruption. Their first line of defense will be to persuade the public that the current system of government and law is necessary for the public’s well-being. Those whose livelihoods derive from taxes will tend to agree. Those whose professional turf is protected from the competition of free enterprise will be happy to believe that government acts in their best interests.
The first priority for those of us who want to live in a thriving ethical society must be to demonstrate that the current system is not necessary – that, in fact, there is at least one viable alternative. Let’s see how this might be accomplished.
The primary reason that most people fear anarchy and submit to government is the fact that government is organized. Government is based on an organizational principle. It presumes that hierarchy is the only valid form of organization that can result in a law-abiding society. But hierarchy was invented as a means of power-brokerage – the top-down sharing of power that allows those who participate to receive some of the benefits presumed to be owned by those at the top of the hierarchical pyramid. This presumption is directly derived from the Power Ethic. But we know from the ethics that this is invalid. Therefore we must also recognize that hierarchy is unethical. If we are ever to live in an ethical society we must replace hierarchy, as manifested in all our institutions, with an ethical form of organization. How can we do this?
There are many ethical organizations and many systems of ethical organization – but they all have one thing in common: Participation is voluntary, and therefore all group decisions are based on consensus – the unanimous consent of the group. For this to work, membership in the group must be based upon an ethical contract. There are many laws on the books that set out to define a valid contract – some are well written – others are not. The best ones contain the following basic elements and provisions:
- The parties to the contract are clearly identified.
- The purpose of the contract is clearly defined.
- What each party to the contract contributes to the group participating is specified.
- The liability that each participant undertakes – and the limitations thereto – is defined.
- What each party to the contract is to receive in exchange for his/her participation and contribution is clearly set forth (the quid pro quo).
- The duration of the agreement is specified together with the means by which the contract may be terminated.
- The right of any participant to withdraw from the contract is affirmed; and the legal and financial consequences of such withdrawal are specified.
- The means by which the contract can, and may be, amended are detailed.
- Violations of the contract are defined, together with the various consequences of such violations – including various penalties to which violators may be subject.
- The seperability of the terms of the contract is affirmed – assuring that if some portion of the contract is later deemed invalid that the remainder of the contract shall remain in effect.
- The means by which disputes concerning the contract and other matters are to be resolved is specified.
- The court having jurisdiction (if any) over disputes concerning the contract is specified.
- Affirmation that each person signing the contract has read it, understands it, and has received adequate legal advice to understand all the possible legal consequences that may result from becoming a party to it.
- Affirmation that each person signing the contract does so of their own free will.
- Signatures of the parties and (where applicable) signatures of witnesses.
At this point it behooves us to consider the myth of the “social contract”. Many apologists for the status quo assert that we are all born as parties to a contract – and that, as a consequence, we are all subject to liabilities defined by the state or government. In other words, in return for the various benefits, real or imagined, that we receive from the government, we owe the government a portion of whatever resources we derive from our experience of life. We should note that the only people who promote this myth are those who want to spend our money or to exercise power over us through the enforcement of edicts forbidding mala prohibita. They would have us believe that they have a valid claim on the money that we receive in exchange for our creativity and productivity.
Now ask yourself:
- Did I sign this so-called contract?
- Did I voluntarily agree to the terms of this contract?
- Does this contract promise to give me something that I actually want?
- If so, am I free to acquire that which I want in other ways?
- Does this contract contain a valid exit clause?
- Does this contract specify the quid pro quo that tells me what I am to contribute and what I am to receive in return?
- Does this contract specify what actions on the part of government constitute a breach of the contract and the penalties that attach thereto?
- Does this contract affirm my right to withdraw from the contract?
Even proponents of this mythological contract only answer “yes” to the last question above. They say I can withdraw from the contract by giving up my citizenship and leaving the country. This is the logical equivalent of saying, “submit to the contract or else…” And what is the “else”? It is the loss of every birth-right that is mine – inviolate and inalienable.
Thus we see that the enforcement of this fictitious contract by edict constitutes mala in se – an evil (unethical) act in and of itself, unsupported even by the government’s own contract laws. I categorically reject the “social contract” and defy anyone to write a cogent, rational, ethical defense of it.
So how can we organize a group of persons in a manner that is ethical and lawful? More specifically, how can we maximize the creativity of the group to be organized within a set of ethical constraints? The requirements of a legitimate contract, as specified above, comprise a good starting point. The mandates of the Titanian Code of Honor can be added because they are compatible with these contractual principles and expand somewhat the scope of the agreement upon which the group is to be organized. If properly enforced, this addition requires that the group will undertake to achieve only ethical outcomes and to use only means which are ethical ends in themselves. For a still broader set of constraints the group may choose to incorporate the Bill of Ethics into its founding documents or bylaws, as illustrated in the Constitution of Titania.
If we want the group being organized to be as creative as possible, which is a highly desirable goal, then we have to consider the size of the group as one of the variables that must be optimized as well. The twenty years of research on this subject by the late John David Garcia proves, with a high degree of confidence, that the optimum number of participants is eight, where, as nearly as possible, the numbers of men and women in the group are equal. Small variations from this 4x4 formula are acceptable. So a group of four men and five women works, as does a group of four men and three women. In either of these cases the number of one gender does not exceed the number of the opposite gender by more than one, and the total varies from eight by no more than one. For convenience I call a group defined in this way, and trained in an optimized communication process, an Octologue. The easily learned communication process makes unanimous decision-making fairly easy and acts as a creativity amplifier. John David Garcia invented the process and through my own research I have enhanced it – we call it “autopoesis”.
Although implicit in the above description, it may not be obvious that the decisions of an Octologue are constrained to be unanimous. Majority rule is specifically not acceptable, because it violates the principles of the Evolutionary Ethic. The sole exception to this mandate is that the group may unanimously decide to delegate its authority to an individual or to a committee – such authority to be revocable by any member of the Octologue if the designated member or group fails to act in accordance with the unanimous will of the Octologue as a whole.
If you have been following this discussion closely it should be obvious that there are many valid ethical purposes that call for more than eight or nine participants. How are these to be achieved with only eight or nine people? Well of course they cannot. But the solution to this difficulty is fairly simple. For a project requiring more than eight people multiple independent Octologues can contract to work in concert toward a common ethical goal or purpose. I call such a contractual concatenation of Octologues a Holomatic Matrix – or HoloMat for short. Employing the contractual principles described previously, there is no limit to the number of people that can participate in a HoloMat. For really big projects a HoloMat could consist of millions of people!
The foregoing subject-matter raises many questions that are beyond the scope of this brief introductory article. Included among them are:
- What massive evidence exists to indicate the validity of the Evolutionary Ethic?
- Why should we believe the Evolutionary Ethic truly has the beneficial transformative power suggested?
- How can a socially stable society be attained and maintained without resort to the use of taxation?
- How can laws against mala in se be enforced without resort to edicts forbidding mala prohibita?
- How can those who benefit the most from governmental adoption of the Power Ethic be persuaded to give up their coercive power in favor of the Evolutionary Ethic?
- Can this transformation be achieved without resort to armed revolution?
- What resources will be required to bring about such a transformation?
- Once achieved, what effects will the transformation have on the economy, foreign policy, business, education, and labor relations?
Answers to these questions exist. But the most important question you must answer yourself: How committed are you to living in a truly ethical society – and what will be your contribution to its creation?