ETHICS, LAW & GOVERNMENT
By Robert E. Podolsky
This article describes the essential relationships between
Ethics, Law, and Government. An understanding of these relationships is an
absolute requirement if one is to really grasp how the world works – and how
the worlds institutions, as they exist today, create the social problems that
most people believe will ultimately be solved by the very institutions that
create them. The article goes on to suggest what must happen (as night follows day) if our species is to survive
long enough to actually thrive. The required knowledge begins with a
scientifically-based grasp of ethics.
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:
value that defines what it is that we want more of in our lives, or what
we wish to maximize, and
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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:
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
All ethical means are ethical ends in
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
Acts of government must be ethical to
be legitimate – and therefore government acts which are not ethical are
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
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:
forbidding the initiation or threat of interpersonal violence.
forbidding theft, burglary, robbery, fraud, and contractual deception.
defining ethical contract relations.
defining ethical judicial procedure.
forbidding unethical acts of government.
providing ethical non-monopolistic services on a voluntary subscription basis.
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
laws permitting slavery, bondage, and involuntary servitude, be it
full-time or part-time, whole-body or partial.
2. All taxes: direct,
indirect, and hidden, fall into this category.
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”.
government activities paid for by confiscatory taxes are included.
laws regulating trade by imposing duties, taxes, or other fees that raise
consumer prices on all goods or on specific goods selected by the
mandating trade embargos or sanctions.
that nurture parasitism at home or abroad.
requiring the purchase of permits before the owner of a property can alter
or repair an item of real property.
requiring government in
spection of real property that has been modified or
zoning and land-use laws.
requiring acquisition and use of a social security number or comparable
permitting surveillance, search, and seizure without probable cause and
11. All laws permitting government access to private records
without probable cause fall into this category.
forbidding the use of strong encryption of private records and those
forbidding the sale of software that provides such encryption.
Laws permitting “emergency powers” permitting suspension of these legal
limitations of government power.
14. All laws proposing to regulate the
15. 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.
16. 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.
17. 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
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
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
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. See Appendix
A for a detailed explanation of how to write a good contract.
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, referring to APPENDIX A if you need to, ask yourself:
I sign this so-called contract?
I voluntarily agree to the terms of this contract?
this contract promise to give me something that I actually want?
so, am I free to acquire that which I want in other ways?
this contract contain a valid exit clause?
this contract specify the quid pro
quo that tells me what I am to contribute and what I am to receive in
this contract specify what actions on the part of government constitute a
breach of the contract and the penalties that attach thereto?
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
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.
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 in APPENDIX A, 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:
massive evidence exists to indicate the validity of the Evolutionary
should we believe the Evolutionary Ethic
the beneficial transformative power suggested?
can a socially stable society be attained and maintained without resort to
the use of taxation?
can laws against mala in se
enforced without resort to edicts forbidding mala prohibita?
can those who benefit the most from governmental adoption of the Power
be persuaded to give up their coercive power in favor of the Evolutionary
this transformation be achieved without resort to armed revolution?
resources will be required to bring about such a transformation?
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
How to Write a Good Contract
The best contracts contain the following
basic elements and provisions:
parties to the contract are clearly identified.
purpose of the contract is clearly defined.
each party to the contract contributes to the group participating is
liability that each participant undertakes – and the limitations thereto –
each party to the contract is to receive in exchange for his/her
participation and contribution is clearly set forth (the quid pro quo).
duration of the agreement is specified together with the means by which
the contract may be terminated.
right of any participant to withdraw from the contract is affirmed; and
the legal and financial consequences of such withdrawal are specified.
means by which the contract can, and may be, amended are detailed.
of the contract are defined, together with the various consequences of
such violations – including various penalties to which violators may be
severability 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.
means by which disputes concerning the contract and other matters are to
be resolved is specified.
court having jurisdiction (if any) over disputes concerning the contract
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.
that each person signing the contract does so of their own free will.
of the parties and (where applicable) signatures of witnesses.