Friday, 31 October 2014

Common Sense Freedom

Fourth and last comes the Principle of Common Sense Freedom:

Except where countermanded by justice, the law or respect for rights, every individual is free to choose and act as he or she wishes.

This Principle is a catch-all. It’s a little bit like the Tenth Amendment to the US constitution. It says, in essence: When there is no other guide, the choice in any matter affecting you is yours.

The Principle also makes it plain that freedom is the fourth and lowest in the hierarchy of Principles. It can be trumped by common sense justice. It can be trumped by the law, and so by moral equality. And it can be trumped by the obligation to respect others’ rights. But it can’t be trumped by anything else. Not ever; not for any pretext or excuse; not at all.

I’ll here bring out three particularly important kinds of freedom. First, freedom to choose. You are naturally free to make your own choices and decisions. Second, and closely related, freedom to refuse, to say “no,” or in more choice language “bugger off.” And third, freedom to make mistakes, and to learn from them.

There’s a follow-up, too. In any matter which doesn’t involve or affect anyone else, you as an individual have absolute, total freedom to do exactly what you want. This is how I formulate my equivalent of the “self-ownership” principle put forward by my liberty friends.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Common Sense Rights

My third Principle is a consequence of the Principle of Common Sense Justice. But it’s sufficiently important, that it merits its own title and statement. Furthermore, I separate it from Common Sense Justice because it occupies a different place in the hierarchy. For rights can, at need, be trumped by both justice and moral equality.

I call it the Principle of Common Sense Rights:

Provided you behave as a civil human being, you have the right to be treated as a civil human being.

Behaving as a civil human being means obeying the law, including respecting the equal rights of others. It is because of this that common sense equality can be said, like justice, to trump rights.

So, what rights do you acquire through behaving in this way?

I’ll start with a conventional list of human rights, the UN Declaration from 1948. Looking through the list, I find myself dividing the listed “rights” into four groups. I call these: fundamental rights, rights of non-impedance, wisdoms and aspirations.

Fundamental rights result from moral prohibitions – that is, prohibitions applicable to everyone – of the form “Thou shalt not...” followed by something bad. For example: The right to life (thou shalt not kill). Dignity (thou shalt not treat human beings as less than human). Security of person (thou shalt not do violence). Property (thou shalt not steal). No slavery. No torture. No cruel or unusual punishment. No unjust arrest or detention. No unjust interference with privacy, family, home or correspondence. No untrue defamation. No coercion into marriage. And others.

There are also some fundamental rights which should be in the Declaration, but aren’t. Notably, peace (thou shalt not commit aggressions). But also, no stalking or routine surveillance, no search without reasonable suspicion of real wrongdoing – and in particular, no random searches, on any pretext – and no unjust seizure of goods or other assets.

I am coming to think that there should also, perhaps, be some kind of “right to truth,” based on “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” Aspects of this might include: A right to challenge false public statements made about you, or about issues affecting you. A right to know what information others hold about you. And a right to have such statements or information corrected or removed if they are wrong.

I hope all readers will agree with these fundamental rights, and the rightness of the prohibitions which underlie them. I hope, too, that few will disagree with my second category, rights of non-impedance. These result from more nuanced moral prohibitions, of the form “Thou shalt not put any obstacle in the way of...” followed by something good. In this category fall rights such as: Freedom of movement and residence. Freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Freedom of opinion and of speech. Freedom of peaceful assembly and association. Freedom to marry. Freedom to seek work. Free choice of employment.

As with fundamental rights, there are also some rights of non-impedance missing from the Declaration. For example, freedom for each individual to pursue his or her own happiness.

The third group I call wisdoms. Examples include: equality before the law; public, impartial courts and trials; and innocence until proven guilty. They represent, in a Western view at least, the best ways found so far to organize Civilization justly. These are all good stuff; but they’re necessarily provisional. There’s always a chance of discovering better ways to do these things.

The fourth group I call aspirations, though some call them “positive rights.” Examples are a “right to work,” social security, a minimum standard of living or “free” education. While most people would agree with the gist of these aspirations, there’s a problem with elevating them into “rights.” For, when such a “right” requires someone other than the receiver to pay for it, that is itself a violation of the rights of those who are forced to pay.

But these aspirations can easily be recast as rights of non-impedance. For example, the “right to work” turns into the right not to be impeded from seeking work. And the “right to a minimum standard of living” becomes a right not to be impeded from trading with others to get your basic needs satisfied such as food, shelter and sex. In other words, no-one should ever put any obstacle in the way of anyone’s access to the free market.

Similarly, no-one should put obstacles in the way of anyone insuring against illness, injury or other incapacities. Or providing a good education for their children. Or making themselves financially secure.

Thus, all real rights are either fundamental rights, rights of non-impedance, or “wisdoms” which represent the best ways so far found to achieve justice.

But there’s a sting in the tail. Or, more accurately, in the proviso at the front of the Principle. If you fail to behave in a civil manner, then to the extent that you fail, you forfeit correspondingly some of your own rights. This is why it’s OK, for example, to deny freedom of movement to convicted criminals in prison.

Rejecting the cop-out clauses

Conventional views of human rights, however, don’t make this proviso. Instead, they allow political governments – or the EU, or the UN – to cop out, and to limit rights for trumped-up reasons.

The Declaration includes the following text:

2. In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

3. These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

– United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 29

If the Article quoted above had stopped after the word “others,” I could have accepted it. But instead, there are excuses for cop-out such as “morality,” “public order,” “the general welfare” or “the purposes and principles of the UN.”

Questions present themselves. What morality? How can “public order” be compatible with the nature of conscious beings to create order, not to be brought to order? Does “the general welfare” differ from John Locke’s “public good,” and if so, how and why? And if the UN gets a bee in its bonnet about something – say, deep green environmentalism, or world government – does that negate all human rights in that area? These cop-outs are both wrong and very, very dangerous.

Certainly, you may choose to give up some of your rights in a particular situation, if you wish. If you have joined with other people in a defensive war or a fight against oppression, for example, you may be willing to give up for the common cause some of your property, or some of your freedom of movement, or some of your opportunities for rest and leisure.

But the rights of a civil human being, unless he or she voluntarily chooses to forgo them, must not be violated. Not for any reason. Ever. They are sacrosanct. And those that violate others’ rights cannot complain if they, in their turn, suffer their own rights being violated.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Common Sense Equality

To the second of my principles: Common Sense Equality.

Equality is a troublesome concept. To the political right, equality is a dirty word. The idea is vague and shadowy, but it threatens them and their privileges. It’s outside their paradigm, their way of thinking. So they ignore it, deny its validity, or suppress discussion of it, as far as they can.

The political left, on the other hand, do take on board the idea of equality. But then, seemingly failing to understand the difference between justice and equality, they pervert the idea into an excuse to harm good people. In the name of ideals like “equality of outcome” or “equality of opportunity,” the left seek to create both inequality and injustice.

An example: Suppose A and B do similar jobs, but A is much better at the job than B. Perhaps he has more experience, or is more conscientious, or has developed his talents further, or is a self-starter, or works quicker or harder than B; or, perhaps, several of these. So A fairly earns – say – twice as much as B. But the political left see this as an inequality to be “rectified.” They want to better B at the expense of A. So they authorize someone – let’s call them C – to take away some of A’s earnings, and re-distribute them to B.

Now this is an inequality, and far bigger than the one we started with. C has acquired a “right” to take away and re-distribute A’s earnings; yet A has no such “right” to take away C’s earnings and re-distribute them to B, or whomever else he wishes. It’s an injustice, too; for A has done no-one any harm, and so he deserves not to be harmed.

In reality, the remedy in this situation lies with B. He should watch what A does well, and make himself more like A. In time, perhaps, he will come to compete with A, and – in an extreme case – may even take over his job.

Neither the political right nor left offer a helpful view on equality. Yet my common sense tells me that in one very strong sense at least, we human beings are all equal. Although each of us is different and unique, we’re all morally equal; we all have the same moral rights. I express this in my Principle of Common Sense Equality:

What is right for one to do, is right for another to do under similar circumstances, and vice versa.

This kind of equality is usually called equality before the law. The idea being, that the same law and the same rules should apply to all of us. It is an essential part of the so called “rule of law.”

Equality before the law does, indeed, tally with my common sense view of equality. But my Principle is more primitive than law. It applies not only inside legal systems, but even prior to, or in the absence of, any framework of law.

Some will ask, under common sense equality, how can there be a justice system? And in particular, how can some have a right to be judges over others? For if A has a right to judge B, doesn’t B have an equal and opposite right to judge A?

My answer to this is that Common Sense Equality, my second principle, is subordinate to Common Sense Justice, my first. Otherwise put: Justice trumps equality. And so, allowing some to be judges over others doesn’t contradict common sense equality, provided those judges are entirely, and always, focused on delivering objective, common sense justice.

Some, however, will disagree more fundamentally with this kind of equality. They may make the Orwellian claim that some are more equal than others. But they must answer: exactly who is “more equal?” What do the more equal have the right to do, that the less equal do not? When? And why? And if they think some should be treated as “less equal,” and allowed less moral rights than others, they why should they themselves not be thrown down to the very bottom of the heap?

Please don’t underestimate how radical this Principle is. For it denies any claim by political officials of any right to do things which other people may not. It does not suggest that an official, such as a policeman, may not sometimes be better equipped to do a particular act in a particular situation than another person. But it affirms that what is right for that policeman to do, would be right for anyone else to do in the same situation. And vice versa.

The Principle can be applied to other political acts, too. For example, taxation. Now taxation, obviously, isn’t for the sole purpose of objective, common sense justice. In fact, most taxation has exactly the opposite effect; it re-distributes wealth away from those who justly earn it, and towards the politically hip and their supporters. Therefore, in this case, equality can’t be trumped by justice. So we can apply the Principle in full force, with the following effect: If they have a right to tax me, I must have an equal and opposite right to tax them.

As another example, consider the routine interception of our e-mails. Plainly, this can’t be for reasons of common sense justice. For if it were, it would only ever be used against those reasonably suspected, on the basis of objective evidence, of having committed, of committing or of planning to commit some real crime. Therefore, again the Principle applies in full force. If they have a right to intercept our e-mails, we must have a right to intercept theirs.

The political class try to make out that “national security,” or some other such ruse, demands that they must know about everything each of us is doing or planning to do. But we have an opposite, and far stronger, argument. That is, that our security against them and their kind requires that we must have the right to know about everything they are doing, or planning to do, to us.

Furthermore, my Principle goes directly against two of the historical guiding ideals of political states. Namely, sovereign immunity, the idea that officials cannot be brought to justice for their offences; and irresponsibility, the idea that the state isn’t responsible for damage it causes. My Principle goes directly against the ancient mantra: “The king can do no wrong.”

The law

I’ll take this a step further. From common sense equality, it follows that there exists a moral code of what is right and wrong. And this is independent of time, place, culture, or the social status of an individual. Otherwise put: Morality is universal.

To see this, try the following thought experiment. Take a large (large!) sheet of paper, and make two column headings: Act and Circumstance. Then write down pairs of acts and circumstances, in which the act is wrong under the circumstance, and should be prohibited. By common sense equality, any such prohibition must apply equally to all individuals. Continue until you have covered all such situations you can think of.

Then take another sheet (rather smaller), and do the same for acts which are required. In other words it’s wrong not to do the act under the circumstances. When finished, you have your moral code. The first sheet contains the prohibitions of that code, the second its mandates.

Of course, actually doing this will take lots of time and ink – probably more than you have available! Nevertheless, if common sense equality is right, this moral code must exist. I call it the law; or, the law of civil conduct.

Now you may ask, won’t each individual’s version of the law tend to reflect the particular culture from which that individual comes? Perhaps so; though, personally, I’d hope to be able to minimize the effect. Nevertheless, I’ll refine the thought experiment, by having it done a thousand times over.

Let a thousand greybeards scribble, I say, from as many different cultures as possible. And then we’ll take only those prohibitions and mandates which appear in all their screeds – or, at least, in a goodly proportion, say 95 per cent.

I’d expect that, provided all the beards are grey enough, there should be at least some moral rules which would survive this process. A strong candidate is Confucius’ Golden Rule, which has been generally accepted, in one form or another, by almost every religion and major culture. Three more contenders, from the Judaeo-Christian stable, are, “Thou shalt not kill,” “Thou shalt not steal,” “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” Thus, as the mathematician in me would say, the law exists, and is non-empty. QED.

Particular moral codes, of course, may include elements beyond this core. They may, for example, require observance of customs such as not eating pork or not drinking alcohol. Or they may demand particular religious formalities, or require that individuals subordinate their economic interests to those of others, or seek to minimize some “footprint” of some kind. However, all valid moral codes must include the common moral core, which is the law. And to try to browbeat or to force individuals, against their wills, to obey rules not part of this core, is itself immoral and against the law.

Those familiar with conventional philosophy may also ask, in mock American accents: “Does that make you a ‘deahntahlogist’ rather than a ‘cahnsequentialist?’” My answer is no. In fact, I consider the distinction between the deontologist who judges right by adherence to a moral code, and the consequentialist who judges it by consequences, to be a straw man. I think of myself as both. For, when judging any act, I take into account both bad consequences (which I call the civil law part) and immorality or bad motive (the criminal law part).

Is this concept, of the law, the same as what has traditionally been called natural law? My answer is, broadly, yes. I hesitate to give an unconditional “yes,” mainly because the phrase “natural law” seems to mean different things to different people. But in my view, the law is the code of conduct, which is natural to civil human beings.

And legislation made by governments is only valid, if it is consistent with the law. Or, in John Locke’s words, legislated laws are “only so far right, as they are founded on the law of Nature.” (Second Treatise, §12).

I also note that the law has no statute of limitations, since it applies to everyone at all times in all places. It doesn’t matter where, or how long ago, individuals broke the law; they still broke it.

And furthermore: What is right on a Tuesday, or in Antofagasta, cannot be wrong on a Sunday or in Antananarivo.

Similarly, the law is what it is. It can’t be changed to fit political agendas. Surely, its details can change as the law is applied to new situations. And very occasionally, it’s possible that new knowledge may become available, which enables a better understanding of what the law is. But it cannot be changed merely by the say-so or the legislative fiat of any politician or group of politicians. Otherwise put: the law can be discovered, but it cannot be invented.

Chapter 49. Of Our Return Journey

The next day, I had a mescap from Hazael. He reported that he had formally announced to the people of Earth that they had been accepted as Junior Galactics. He had announced, too, that there would be ceremonies and celebrations. They would begin once the several hundred Galactics who would attend, including many dignitaries, had had time to travel to Earth.

Hazael had a question for me. He wanted to be able to tell people in which cities and on what dates the ceremonies would take place. He knew what was normal in such cases; eight to sixteen ceremonies, in different cities of the planet, usually over twenty-five to thirty-five days. Plainly, the first and biggest ceremony would be in Washington. But no-one had given him a list of the rest. And he was well aware that some on Earth might feel a bit sour, if other people’s countries were awarded ceremonies, but theirs weren’t, without there being a clear reason why.

Normally, Hazael continued, this decision would be made by Bart Vorsprong, as project consultant. But Bart was away, travelling on a Naudar’I ship, and so not reachable. Hazael had tried Balzo, who had merely told him to ask me. So, if I could possibly..?

Actually, it didn’t take me long to work out a scheme. The members of the Team were from twelve different countries – if, as I did, you counted Hong Kong as separate from China. We had been selected, by Bart himself, to provide – among much else – wide geographical coverage. So, one ceremony in a major city in each of these countries would fit the bill. I decided, on a whim, to put the list – apart from Washington, which had to come first – in the same order in which we had been picked up. So the list of twelve I came out with was: Washington, London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Moscow, Sydney, Cape Town, Freetown, Delhi, Jakarta, Hong Kong, Beijing.

Maybe, I thought, I was being a bit tough on the South Americans, whose two planned Team members Gabriel had not managed to pick up. But on the other hand, it was the South Americans’ own fault, for firing the missiles that had delayed him.

* * *

I took the opportunity, provided by an unusually warm day for the time of year, to pay a final visit to Harv’I’s house. Harv’I was in a buoyant mood. He told me that, for his next project, he would base himself for a while on Earth. He planned to continue his father’s researches into what had happened to the Elo’I colony on Venus.

Harv’I told me that Hazael had negotiated long leases on several pieces of land in Virginia, in total a dozen or so square kilometres, to become a Galactic embassy and accommodation base. In this base, Galactic engineers would create environments for many different species. And, in particular, homes from home for those visiting species – such as Elo’I – who would not be comfortable if exposed directly to Earth conditions. Harv’I was now waiting only for them to build a house for him in the accommodation base.

Then there was the question of what to do with Kenny. It was not normal for pets to be accepted on Naudar’I ships. So, if Kenny travelled with us, he would have to be asleep for the whole voyage. Ray and Jenna eventually chose to have him Pushed back into the care of Paul and Melinda, who were now at home in Australia and – unlike most of the other trainees – had resumed their old lives.

The week and a half before we left Perinent were a time for looking back fondly. We had the final Friday ride – a repeat of Gabriel’s very first. And the last dinner, which, very conveniently, fell on a Sunday. Roast lamb, of course. Pulled from a different president’s store this time, in exchange for a case of Seraphim wine.

At that dinner, Gabriel told us that he had had exciting news. Rrrela Himself would be there at the ceremony, and would personally welcome us into the Galaxy! That was most unusual for a new Junior species.

“Who is Rrrela?” asked Ben. “The Galactic president? Or some kind of religious figure?”

“Not either, really,” Gabriel replied. “Rrrela is – you might say – the spirit of the Galaxy. In fact, some say that, in a sense, he is the Galaxy. After all, he owns most of it – everything that isn’t owned by anyone else. Which makes him No. 1 in the Galactic rich-list.”

Then, laughing, “I can see you’re confused. I know I’m not making myself at all clear here. But take it from me, Rrrela is a very powerful individual, in his own quiet way. He is indestructible, for one thing. And he’s a really nice guy.”

“Does he look like a big brown squirrel?” I asked.

Gabriel blinked. “Yes, he does. How did you know that?”

“I already met him,” I said. “When I took the train to Segment 24 to meet the Skobar. And I agree with you, he’s a really nice guy.”

* * *

We left on the Monday morning. While still on the ground, we were given a big dose of a very pleasant, slow acting sleep-gas, like the one we had taken for the Time of Storms. We were about half way out, when Michael took the ’mobile off and gave us, for the brief time until sleep overtook us, a ride to remember.

I woke next to Lily in a big, comfortable bed. The lights in the room were on, but the curtains were closed. As on the first ship, the room was recognizably a hotel room, and designed for Seraphim. But this hotel was clearly five-star. The furnishings were very plush, and everything was... just so. The one odd thing about the room was that it was long and thin, much thinner than normal for a hotel room.

We washed and dressed. Then we opened the curtains, to reveal picture windows, which looked out on a park-like landscape. And the landscape was moving slowly. Or – no, it wasn’t. Actually, we were moving. We were in a train!

We went out of the room, and found ourselves in a corridor. I saw Michael coming along the corridor from my right. “Welcome to the Naudar’Ient Express!” he said. “Or, to give it its proper name, the Naudar’I First Class Far Transport Vessel 4144-B. The dining room is to your left, two coaches along. Breakfast should just about be ready now.”

Good, I thought. I was hungry.

At breakfast, we learned more about the B-class ship we were in. While shaped like a cone, like the V-class in which we had travelled to Perinent, it was far, far smaller – only about forty kilometres long. And at the point where we were, a little above the middle, it was only twelve and a half kilometres around. It rotated about four times as fast as the other ship – one revolution every ninety seconds or so.

One reason, why the accommodation on Naudar’I first class ships took the form of trains, was to enable each group of passengers to choose a place in the ship where the gravity was exactly as they wanted it. Some liked to start at the gravity of the planet they had just left, and to move their train gradually towards the gravity of the planet they were going to. Others just picked whichever of the two was greater. We, for example, were now moving to park at the point where the gravity was the same as Earth’s. Aha, I thought, that is why I feel heavy today – I had got used to Perinent gravity, which was only ninety per cent of Earth’s.

A second reason for the trains was so that different groups of passengers could meet easily. When one group wanted to meet another, they simply agreed on a meeting point, and moved both their trains to that place. (There were many sidings at regular intervals along the track, some of which were reserved for trains to cross, and others provided places to park.)

We could, of course, get down from the train and go walking in any direction we chose. Though we had to be aware that the train might move off! Fortunately, it wasn’t common for the trains to move either very far at once, or very fast.

Michael and Gabriel’s ’mobile was stored in a hangar next to the tracks. On a ship this small, it was not permitted to fly a ’mobile inside. Instead, we had to take the ’mobile through the locks, and fly it outside the ship but within its envelope.

There was one thing I insisted we agreed on at that breakfast. From now, we would return ourselves to the Earthly day-cycle of 24 hours.

* * *

There were passengers on the ship for many destinations in the general direction of Earth, not only for Earth itself. But, as the journey went on, we met more and more individuals, who like us were headed for the celebrations on Earth.

Since Avoran was fairly close to Perinent, and not far away from the direction towards Earth, one of the first species we met were the Avor’I. A party from Avoran joined the ship a few Earth days after we did. Their train spent most of its time some way down-axis from ours, as the gravity on Avoran was fifteen per cent greater than on Earth. But it was easy to arrange a meeting. And so, at last, the Team met Balzo in person.

He was a very upright, tall, gnarled lizard with a light blue robe, a deep bass voice, a confident and direct manner, and a quick smile. He had with him also Olgal. She now wore a dark purple frill, which among Skobar was reserved for officers of the Company for Galactic Advancement, and was a badge of high status.

* * *

Balzo wanted to talk privately with me and Lily. So he came to our room.

He did not waste time. “I have a proposishun for u, Nil and Lily,” he said. “I have recently been promoted. I now have charge of all the Company does on Perinent. I am making a noo group to manage all the projects. I have already Lohman, and Odam has now jonned me. I have also Olgal and two Avor’I in my research group. Would u two like to jon my team?”

“What, specifically, would you want us to do?” I asked.

“I would like u both to spend about a third of ur time on Perinent,” Balzo replied. “To work with the local managers, project consultants and the candidate Teams. To monitor and check their progress, and to suggest what they might do for the better. For the rest of ur work, it is on our planet, Avoran. Nil, u can do the planning with Lohman and Odam. And Lily, I would like u to help in the research.”

Lily and I looked at each other. This sounded like an offer we would be dumb to refuse.

“Spondulix?” I asked Balzo. He looked confused, so I said “That is English for, ‘How much money?’”

“Oh, I see, which Galactic Scale,” he said. “Both ur posts will be well higher than the contracts u have now. I can confirm for u the numbers when we reach Earth.”

Lily and I looked at each other again. “Tap your right hand on the table, twice for yes, once for no,” I thought. She tapped twice.

“Very good,” I said to Balzo. “In principle, we accept your offer. There will be more details to agree. Let us discuss those when we reach Earth.”

* * *

Our time on the ship lasted twenty-five Earth days. At the end of it, we were again put under sleep-gas in the ’mobile. The next we knew, we were coming in for landing at the Galactic embassy in Virginia.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Common Sense Justice

(A key extract from Chapter 5 of "Honest Common Sense.")

Ah, the 64 zillion dollar question: What is justice?

Trying to answer the question by looking at what pundits of the past have said, I found that few have dared to take a deep breath and begin a sentence with, “Justice is…” The Roman jurist Ulpian, in the early 3rd century AD, made a decent attempt: “Justice is the constant and perpetual will to allot to everyone his due.” In the 19th century, Disraeli said that justice is “truth in action” – an admirable sentiment, but not of much practical use.

There are other definitions of justice. But most, I find, fail to capture what I see as the essence of justice – balancing the rights and interests of the individual against the rights and interests of others. Isn’t balance, indeed, the reason why justice is often pictured as a pair of scales?

My definition of justice, as it happens, is not so far from Ulpian’s. For me, justice is that condition in which each individual is treated, overall, as he or she treats others.

To make this idea into a Principle, I prefer to put it as a should. So my Principle of Common Sense Justice, the first and most fundamental principle for any civilization, is:

Each individual, over the long term and in the round, should be treated as he or she treats others.

Let me put forward reasons why this is a good Principle on which to found a social system. First, it encapsulates the balancing of the individual against others, which to me is the essence of justice.

Second, it gives an incentive for almost everyone – the occasional masochist, perhaps, excepted – to behave well towards others. Common sense justice or, otherwise said, objective justice or individual justice, is a benefit to all who treat others with that same justice.

So, if you don’t do nasty things to other people, you shouldn’t have to suffer nasty things done to you. For example, if you don’t violently attack others, you shouldn’t be violently attacked. If you don’t steal others’ possessions, you shouldn’t have to suffer your possessions being stolen. If you don’t defraud others, you shouldn’t have to suffer fraud. On the other hand, if you do such things... You get the message.

And under common sense justice, if you want to be treated better by others, all you need do is find a way of treating others better, of making yourself more valuable to others.

Third, common sense justice aims to be practical. Plainly, individuals cannot be treated as they treat others in every single action and moment; for that would intrude into every aspect of life. So, common sense justice aims to minimize injustice. It strives to avoid gross or persistent treatment of individuals better or worse than they treat others. And thus, any implementer of common sense justice – whether called government, justice provider or something else – will not take decisions lightly.

Some, though, will disagree with my Principle of Common Sense Justice. They may promote, perhaps, “social justice” or “environmental justice” – whatever those may mean. Or they may believe, probably without admitting it, the old adage that “Might makes right.”

But those who disagree must answer some questions. Just who deserves to be treated persistently better than they treat others, and who worse? Who, if anyone, deserves riches, power or respect that they haven’t earned, and that they haven’t been voluntarily given? And who, if anyone, deserves to be unjustly impoverished, exploited or oppressed?

I hope that you, dear reader, find the same answer to these questions as I do: “No-one.” And I add, that those that disagree with common sense justice, and wish to see some individuals oppressed, cannot complain if they find their own selves as victims of oppression.

Many people will feel eager at the prospect of common sense justice. But some will be terrified by the idea. Such as: brutes that killed innocent civilians in aggressive wars; bureaucrats that enforced burdensome taxes or regulations; lobbyists that promoted, and politicians that made, bad legislation. They know what they are – and they know what they’ve done.

To these, I merely put the question: Who’s afraid of common sense justice?

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

How to Re-cycle Wealth

I have written elsewhere about my view of the human being as creator or generator of wealth. Today, I want to address the other side of the same coin. I want to look at the human being as preserver of wealth. Or, to use a phrase, as re-cycler of wealth.

Re-cycling is all the rage these days. I will begin with a few comments about the re-cycling of physical material. I will then ask, why don't we go one further, and re-cycle wealth? And I'll conclude… no, that would spoil your fun.

Where re-cycling makes economic sense - as, for example, with aluminium - then no-one can reasonably object to it. It is far cheaper to re-cycle aluminium than to produce it from ore. Furthermore, the aeroplane or the beer-can made from re-cycled aluminium is essentially identical to the same thing made with metal from ores.

Less clear is the benefit in re-cycling of garbage. There is some valuable stuff in garbage - glass and aluminium or steel cans, for example. But the government monopolists, that are supposed to organize the collection and disposal of our garbage, don't want to give us discounts for that valuable stuff. Nor do they want to serve us, by offering to sort our garbage for us. Instead, they want to force us to sort it ourselves. And they threaten us with "rubbish police" to sift through our garbage looking for things they say we should have re-cycled! They see the re-cycling ideal merely as an excuse to bully people.

In summary, re-cycling of physical material can be good, and it can be bad. Where it improves the human environment, as for example by leading to greater prosperity, it is good. Where it harms the human environment - where it leads, for example, to bad, bullying "laws" - then it is bad.

I pass now to the question: Why don't we re-cycle wealth? If it makes sense to re-cycle valuable physical objects, then surely it makes even better sense to re-cycle the well-being, which is the result of productive human endeavours? That way, each of us can have that well-being many times over.

What would it entail, this re-cycling of wealth? It would mean that each of us strives not to let any wealth seep out of the system. We spend wisely, giving our wealth to those who do good things for us in return, and to those whom we want to help or to invest in. We strive to keep our wealth away from those that want to damage our lives. We avoid giving to - for example - the violent, the dishonest, trouble-makers, thieves, warmongers, bigots, bullies, killjoys, wealth-haters, criminals, the malicious, the disruptive, the destructive, the obstructive. We give nothing to those that want to prevent us enjoying the peace, freedom, justice, prosperity, progress and happiness we deserve.

In such a system, every opportunity to spend becomes an opportunity for someone to serve. Every opportunity to serve becomes, through the mechanism of trade, an opportunity to spend. And, with no wealth being lost from the system, every opportunity for an individual to spend eventually finds its way back to that individual as an opportunity to serve. This cycle continues indefinitely; serve, spend wisely; serve, spend wisely. And what is being re-cycled and preserved is not just material wealth, but the most important resource on the planet - the productive and creative energy of human beings.

Contrary to what most pundits today would tell us, in a system where wealth is re-cycled, we should not seek to minimize how much we spend. Rather the opposite, in fact. Each of us should spend as much as we can comfortably afford without prejudicing our own futures. Whenever we can afford it, we should always buy high quality goods and services in preference to shoddy.

We should not, for example, allow ourselves to be conned into feeling guilty for buying a more expensive Jaguar rather than a cheaper Ford. As we sit back and enjoy the extra comfort, we can reflect that by buying the higher quality, more expensive car we have actually increased the rate at which wealth travels round the system, and therefore the general prosperity. We can think of the craftsmen at Jaguar who, in their turn, have an opportunity to spend on whatever they want. Perhaps, indeed, we are being a little hard on the Ford workers. But they're OK too, since there's always going to be someone who can't quite afford the Jaguar yet, but is only too happy to buy the Ford.

Nor should we feel guilty if, when we go on holiday, we stay in a luxury hotel rather than, say, camping. Indeed, we should question the motives of the killjoys that try to make out that we are misusing wealth by spending on our own enjoyment. For, in reality, no wealth is lost from the system, when we spend on those who serve us. Wealth is only lost when it finds its way to those that fail to serve and, instead, damage others' lives.

When our wealth is properly re-cycled, we will be able to invest in the future too. At the personal level, we can save for our own old age. At a wider level, we can improve the environment for the human race. We can invest, for example, in practical, long-term, large-scale energy supplies. In developing a system of law and justice, which cannot be perverted by politicians or vested interests. In methods of education which encourage excellence, and strive to bring out the maximum potential of each individual. In means of transport which are fast, comfortable, fun, safe and private. When our wealth is fully re-cycled, we human beings will become, as we should be, the masters of our planet.

Unfortunately, our wealth isn't being re-cycled today. There is a constant and enormous drain on our well-being, from two directions. First, and more obvious, are what I call the oozers. These are individuals, whose nett effect is to damage the human environment. They harm our economy, our livelihoods, our emotional states, our enjoyment of our earned pleasures, our liberties, our lifestyles, the quality of our lives. I name them "oozers," because their effect on our lives is like a foul ooze that pollutes everything it touches.

But, far more numerous than the oozers, are the wasters. These are people who do not try as hard as they should to re-cycle wealth. They voluntarily give away part or even much of their wealth to oozers. Probably, many of them do not even realize how much waste, and so indirectly how much damage to everyone's lives, they are causing.

In a sense, we are all of us guilty of behaving like wasters. By paying more in taxes than the dubious benefits we receive in return are worth, we are failing to re-cycle our wealth. With the obvious result, that our opportunities both to spend and to serve are greatly diminished. And so, all of us human beings are far poorer than we deserve to be. Worse yet, what we pay is being used, not to benefit us, but to feed the egos of politicians, and to build bureaucracies full of oozers just waiting to pounce on us, rob us and bully us on any pretext they can find.

Most people know, deep down inside at a level beyond mere rational thought, that there is something desperately wrong with human society as it is today. They are quite right. And this, I think, is a reason why so many people have jumped on the re-cycling and, more generally, the enviro bandwagon. For, at first glance, enviro ideas seem to offer a fresh approach, a prospect of a better future. But, when we look a little more deeply, we find that enviro-ism is rooted in an extreme conservatism. The kind of "environment" which enviros want for us is one that is economically depressed, politically tyrannical and going absolutely nowhere. That isn't a human environment! That isn't an environment fit for human beings to live in!

But, buried inside any system of ideas which has power, there is always at least a nub of rightness. And so it is with re-cycling and the environment. For one of the key questions, which we lovers of freedom face today, is: How do we go about improving the human environment? How do we bring about the peace, freedom and prosperity, which human beings need and deserve? And, not surprisingly, part of the answer is - re-cycle. Re-cycle wealth, that is.

Imagine, just imagine, if all wealth was re-cycled. Imagine if we were able to keep all our wealth away from - and I'll repeat the list - the violent, the dishonest, trouble-makers, thieves, warmongers, bigots, bullies, killjoys, wealth-haters, criminals, the malicious, the disruptive, the destructive, the obstructive. Imagine if all those that want to damage our lives were starved of the resources they need to carry out their vile schemes. Wouldn't that make for a better environment? Wouldn't it lead to a world fit for human beings to live in?

So here's the message on re-cycling: Help the environment - the human environment. Re-cycle your wealth!

(From the archives - March 1st, 2003)

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

How to Make the Economy Sustainable, and to End Poverty in the Process

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to try out on you today a thought experiment. I know that you may find some of what I have to tell you hard to swallow. Nevertheless, I commend this thought experiment to you. For it may have a little – just a little – power to change your thinking, and so eventually the world, for the better.

I must begin with a short note on terminology. It irks me that enviros and politicians have found it so easy to pervert the word “sustainable”. What the word should mean is “capable of being sustained”. Or, otherwise said, “able to endure into the future”. What it seems to mean in enviro-speak, though, is more like “minimizing use of natural resources”, or even “minimizing effect on the surroundings”. I want to make it clear to you, that when I use the word sustainable without a sniff before it, I mean able to endure into the future.

So, let’s begin the thought experiment.

Picture, if you will, a rolling, grassy plain. And, standing on that plain, many human beings. A few hundred, or a thousand, should suffice. Now imagine that one of these human beings has a parcel, a parcel of goodies. What kind of goodies does not matter very much, so long as they are yummy.

Watch, now, as the human being with the parcel consumes some of it. But then, using what he has consumed, he generates some more goodies. He adds them to the parcel. And then, he throws the parcel to one of his neighbours. That neighbour, in her turn, takes out some, puts in some, and passes the parcel on. And on. And on.

Imagine, for a moment – only – that each human being in this chain contributes only half as much yumminess as they take out. What will happen? The parcel will get smaller and smaller. After it has been through thirty or forty people, it will be microscopic. Time for another parcel – which must come from the outside world.

Imagine, on the other hand, that each human being contributes at least as much as he or she takes out. What happens? The parcel gets gradually bigger. Eventually, it gets too big for an individual to hold, and some of it has to be put down on the ground. The parcel carries on its way for ever, and our rolling, grassy plain becomes covered with goodies. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is a sustainable economy!

Now, I want you to “zoom out” – to take a broader view. Our game of pass-the-parcel doesn’t quite represent a real economy. Because, in a real economy, there are lots of parcels. And they’re a lot smaller. Where I live, they’re called pennies – although, in most of the world, they’re called cents or some such.

It’s difficult to visualize pennies flying from one individual to another, and there would probably be injuries. So I’ll use a different metaphor – light. Imagine if each of those people, on that rolling plain, takes in light, and gives out light in return. If each of them gives out less light than he or she receives, the economy – the candle, if you like – sputters and dies. But if each individual gives out as much as he or she receives or more, the candle burns. And continues to burn, brighter and brighter. Just imagine, every one of those human beings on that rolling plain, happy, smiling and bathed in light!

Now let’s zoom out again. Look in your imagination, from out in space, at the planet Earth. Look at the places where there is peaceful, purposeful, productive human activity. Think of those billions of human beings, who play their full part in this activity, as sources of light. Watch them, in your mind, glow – and grow. Watch the light of peace, prosperity and progress spread all over the planet.

But the world today isn’t like that, is it? Why not?

One possible reason presents itself. Look closer, and among the producers of light, you will find dark figures. These are people who are too young or too old to produce, or who are ill, injured, or mentally or physically disabled. They consume light, but they are unable to generate light. Could these people be the reason why the light doesn’t spread?

Look closer still at the producers, the generators of light. Many of them, you will find, produce far more than they consume. If they do enough, their extra productivity can make up for the presence of the dark figures. For the mathematicians among you, the break-even point comes when the proportion of the productive in the population, multiplied by their productivity, reaches 1. If the dark figures are, say, one-third of the population, then the light can still spread, provided the productive two-thirds each produce at least 50 per cent more than they consume.

This load is supportable, as long as productive individuals have confidence that, over the long term, they will break even. No-one can reasonably grudge re-paying help to those who have helped them in the past, or investing in those who will help them in the future. The economy can support these dark figures without losing sustainability, provided – and it is a big provided – that they do not let themselves become a long-term drain on others.

But look closer yet, and you will find, mixed in with the radiant producers and the dark non-producers, a third kind of individual. These individuals consume light, like the others. But, instead of adding to the economy by being productive in their turn, they actively take from the economy, and damage it. They emit, not light, but a dark brown, foul, toxic ooze that pollutes everything it touches. I name them the Oozers.

When this damaging, polluting ooze reaches the bright producers, it begins to dim their light. It causes productive human beings to become less prosperous, and to start to lose confidence in the future. It takes away their incentive to develop their skills and to produce more and more. If the ooze reaches a high enough concentration, it can suffocate individuals entirely. It can snuff out their light, and make them dark.

As with the non-producers, there is a relationship between the proportion of oozers in the population, the amount of damage each causes, and the effects. If the proportion of oozers, multiplied by the damage each causes, exceeds the proportion of the productive times their productivity, the economy is headed downhill. It is not sustainable. And this can happen even when the actual proportion of oozers is quite small, perhaps only two or three per cent. For in today’s kind of world it is, as everyone knows, far easier to destroy than to build. It is far easier to do a million dollars’ worth of damage than to deliver a million dollars’ worth of value.

Zoom out once more, and look at the planet as it actually is. See the arbitrary red lines, which constitute political boundaries. See that, in areas of the world where the oozers are relatively few, or relatively innocuous, there is some light and prosperity. Not nearly as much, to be sure, as if the oozers were not there. For, even in the most advanced Western economies, the negative effect of the oozers is a terrible burden on us all. And, today, the oozers are becoming more and more virulent.

If you wonder why the world economy in the 20th century has been so unpredictable, so up and down, consider the oozers as a root cause. For the world economy is like a battle-ground between productive human beings and oozers. When and where productive human beings win, the economy goes up. When and where oozers win, the economy goes down.

In areas of the world where oozers are entrenched in power, the light is, and has been for decades, firmly suppressed. And this has consequences. In Africa, in South America, economies, that were never very healthy in the first place, are in danger of dying.

Now, look at people in those places, where the ooze suppresses the light. You will find yet a fourth kind of individual. They are not oozers; they are not evil or destructive. Like the non-producers, these individuals are dark. But they are not dark because they are too young, or too old, or ill, or injured, or disabled. They are dark, because the light does not reach them. They have no opportunity to take part in the world economy. Ladies and gentlemen, there is a name for these people. They are called the poor.

How can we human beings end this unnecessary state, which is called poverty? The answer is simple. We must help the poor to help themselves. How do we do that? By bringing the light to them – by giving them the chance to take part in the world economy. And who or what stands in the way of our doing that? The destructive oozers, and their polluting ooze.

Imagine, just imagine, if the oozers were no longer among us. Imagine if those, that maliciously damage our economy, had got the come-uppance they deserve, and had drowned in their own foul ooze. Can you see what would happen? With the oozers gone, productive people would be able to unleash themselves. Good people would receive at last, in a free market without coercion, the rewards they deserve. And this would give them the incentive to build on their talents, to develop their skills, to produce yet more. Prosperity would breed prosperity. Progress would breed progress. And, by the miraculous phenomenon which economists call “trickle-down”, opportunities would come even to the very poorest.

What about natural resources? We would use them – but we would use them wisely. We would use them to help us gain access to more and more resources. We would use scarce resources to get us to the point where we don’t need them any more, because we have better alternatives. And we wouldn’t waste any resources at all on oozers.

The world economy would gather pace, and more pace. Beyond a certain point, when good people’s immediate needs and desires are satisfied, and their personal futures secure, we would be able to start thinking about the human future. Our economy would become truly sustainable, because productive human beings would, at last, have enough resources and time to address the longer-term future of the human race.

Zoom out again. Planet Earth has supported us human beings for thousands of years. It has provided us with the natural resources we need to grow. But, today, it’s not the healthiest of places. And some of the resources we need may be, perhaps, in danger of running out within a few decades.

Enviros and politicians, with their perverted notion of (sniff) “sustainability”, tell us that we must cut our use of natural resources. And then, that we must cut it again, and again. Even though, as they well know, the long-term effect of policies based on this notion can only be to destroy our economy. In the name of (sniff) sustainability, they want to take away our means of sustenance, and to condemn us all to poverty. Ladies and gentlemen, the enviros and the politicians claim to care about the future. But they don’t care about your futures. Or mine.

Zoom out one last time. There is, within nature, an analogy to our situation today. You might enjoy it.

Think, if you will, of the Earth as like a giant egg. And think of the human race as like a chicken inside that egg. What does a chicken do, when his egg becomes foul and the nutrients start to run out? He hatches! He breaks out of the egg, into the big world beyond. He takes the next step on his journey towards becoming a rooster.

So here’s what we have to do, to make ourselves a liveable economic future. One, get rid of the foul oozers, that damage our economy. Two, create the conditions for a fully free market, which will unleash the productive and get the economy moving. Three, look wider than just planet Earth.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how we can make the economy sustainable, and end poverty among human beings in the process.

(First published on December 24th, 2002)

Chapter 48. Of Choosing a Gift

After Hazael reported that events on Earth had reached their tipping point, we on Perinent entered something of a no man’s land. The success of our project was now all but assured; and our Pulling workload was dropping steadily, as the need for us to interfere in what was happening on Earth became less and less. Yet, until the Board of the Galactic Association had formally adjudged humans as fit to be Junior Galactics, we had to stay on Perinent.

The following Monday, Balzo sent a mescap reporting that he and Bart Vorsprong had completed the formal proposal for our admission to the Galaxy. It was now being reviewed by the top management of the Company for Galactic Advancement, including Nansen Ault. Balzo expected it to go to the Board, and for them to decide, in three Perinent weeks or so.

But I, at least, was not allowed to be idle. In that same mescap, Balzo asked me to visit all the other camps on Perinent – and nominated Michael as my pilot. “Take a look,” Balzo said, “and report what u see at each camp. No preconcepshuns.”

Four of the five other camps were at much the same distance from Camp Two, a little over ten thousand kilometres. Camp Five, being directly opposite our own camp on the globe, was twice as far. But the ’mobile could reach even Camp Five in not much more than an hour. So, Michael and I planned five day trips, over a couple of weeks. In each case, Lily – as ever – came along for the ride. Other members of the Team came on some of the trips too, if only to get away from the Camp Two winter for a few hours.

I went back to Camp Four first. The candidates who had replaced the Brjemych were a lizard species, the Feh’in. Physically, they were not unlike the Skobar, if a little larger on average, and with unusually short tails for lizards. They were still settling in, and learning Pulling and Pushing. They had not yet started even to identify their trainees.

The Feh’in had as Helpers a young, enthusiastic couple of Avor’I. It was their first project with the Company, and they clearly meant to make it work. As local project manager they had a Toronur, Zherhat by name, who had come highly recommended by Odam, and who was obviously well organized. And Lohman, Balzo’s principal assistant, was in overall charge of the project from his base on Avoran.

Tuglayino and Tuglayono appeared relaxed among the Feh’in. The Cherubim, too, seemed content. But I was not totally convinced. It did all seem rather too good to be true. So, my report to Balzo on the new project at Camp Four was, “Too early to tell. Monitor closely.”

My visits to Camps One, Five and Six turned up little to worry about. The species at Camps One and Six were both plodding along steadily at their own pace. And those at Camp Five were in much the same situation as we had been after P-Day, two-thirds of a Perinent year before. The project was clearly going in the right direction, but they still had a lot of work to do.

The visit to the equatorial Camp Three was the most difficult, as this was the camp with facilities for amphibious and aquatic species. The candidate species here were metre long, carnivorous fish. Even with my new two-way translator, the best that Seraph industry could produce, I could find no way of directly communicating with them. (I certainly wasn’t going to go in the water!) I couldn’t even find out unambiguously what their species name was.

Their Helpers and teachers were a team of four amphibians, from a species called the Pelino’tqvam. While I could converse with them, the import of our conversations was never very clear. It was as if their thought processes moved, for the most part, at right angles to my own.

My report to Balzo on Camp Three was that we needed the help of experts on communicating with species such as the Pelino’tqvam, if we were to understand better how these projects were going.

* * *

It was three weeks later, on a Wednesday morning, that Gabriel came in to breakfast with a mescap in his hand and a beaming smile on his face. “Here it is,” he said, raising the mescap. “We have confirmation from the Board that you humans have been accepted as a Junior Galactic species.” There were cheers all round.

“This means,” continued Gabriel, “that we will leave for Earth in one to two weeks from now. But there is much more to be said.

“Firstly, the Board has accepted humans as a whole into Junior Galactic status. But they wish to reward those like yourselves, who have done so much good work, with more. So, the Board has conferred full Galactic citizenship on all of you the Team, on the trainees of your first and second waves, and on Cristina and Helen too. They will also confer full citizenship on those members of your third wave who deserve it; which individuals, will be decided during the ceremonies.”

“What does full Galactic citizenship mean to us, as opposed to Junior status?” asked Marie.

“It means,” replied Gabriel, “that you as individuals can go anywhere in the Galaxy, and do anything permitted for Galactics, on your own initiative and without any kind of supervision. It also means that you are no longer required to wear white on weekdays or on Naudar’I ships. White is the colour of novices, but you are no longer novices. You can wear your Sunday robe colours every day. You may be surprised how much difference this makes to how other Galactics will view you.”

“It sounds, then,” I said, “as though we have another procurement job to do.”

Gabriel nodded. “We will have enough of the right size and colour robes for the whole Team ready on Seraph by tomorrow. It will then be a matter of Pulling them and sorting them.

“Secondly,” Gabriel went on, “after the ceremonies on Earth are completed, the project, and your contracts on it, will be over. This means that you need to think about what you do next. You can stay on Earth if you want, or go wherever else in the Galaxy you wish.

“It also means that you will need to start supporting yourselves financially again. Since you left Earth, your Galactic bank accounts on Tener-3 have been building up. It is now time for you to learn how to use them. We have ordered a training course, which we expect to arrive by mescap tomorrow, and we will load it into the Pedia.

“Thirdly,” he continued, “it is traditional for a species, when they are accepted as Juniors, to be given a substantial gift from the Galaxy.

“In some cases, it is obvious what that gift should be. For example, when the Tefla were admitted as Juniors, their most urgent need was to be able to communicate easily with others in the Galaxy. So the Tefla were given translators adapted for their particular abilities. In the case of the Tuglay, their biggest need was mobility; so we gave them their transport boards. In your case, though, there doesn’t seem to be one gift you obviously need ahead of anything else. So, we would like your thoughts on the matter.”

“If the decision was up to me,” I said, “I’d probably go for something like large scale, cost-effective solar power. Perhaps collecting energy outside the Earth’s atmosphere, then beaming it to receiving points on Earth, from which it can be distributed to where it is wanted. We could develop that on our own, but it would probably take many decades. Using Galactic technology to speed up the process could give us a big benefit.”

“That is definitely a possibility,” said Gabriel, and several others agreed.

“How long do we have to make a decision?” I asked.

“A few weeks,” Gabriel replied. “It will be announced during the ceremonies on Earth. But bear in mind that all of us here will be in a Naudar’I ship, and so not contactable, after the next week or so.”

“I suggest,” I said, “that we ask Ramael and Hazael to take a poll among the trainees and the members of the third wave. We the Team will send our own votes to them before we leave Perinent, to start the ball rolling.

“Democracy, anyone?” I asked, with a grin.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Chapter 47. An Awakening - Part 2

The Personal Transition, in its turn, fed the Social. And here, we were greatly helped by a group of our first-wave trainees, who had had ample time for discussion and planning on their journey home from Perinent. This group formed a society, which they called the Galactic Movement, and whose purpose was to catalyze the social changes necessary for humans to join the Galaxy.

The Galactic Movement was open for membership to anyone worldwide, who was prepared to commit to behaving up to Galactic standards. The founders had written these standards down in a brief, clear document. Broadly, they were honesty; non-aggression; peacefulness except under attack, or defending others against attack; taking responsibility for your life and for the effects of your actions; striving to create wealth; respecting others as individuals; tolerating difference; treating others at least as well as they treat you; practising what you preach; and respecting the rights and freedoms of everyone who behaves well enough to deserve them.

Members were required, each month, to sign a confirmation that they remained committed to living up to Galactic standards. And there were public, honest and transparent mechanisms by which those, that were found to have lied about their commitment, could be expelled from membership.

The Galactic Movement, its founders made very clear, was not a political organization or party. Indeed, it was adamantly against all politics; all aggression, all thieving, all dishonesty. But, where appropriate, it would offer public support to, and provide volunteers to help, those members in good standing who chose to make themselves candidates for election to public – not political – office.

So, there were defections of a few savvy, and not too badly compromised, democratic politicians from their parties to the Galactic Movement – becoming ex-politicians in the process. The occasional prince or president, who had been infected with the Galactic bug, joined in too. More than half of the third wave members, along with many of the trainees from the first and second waves, became prominently committed to the Galactic way forward.

At first, the Galactic Movement and those it sponsored were ignored by the great majority of politicians, and by practically all the media. But it very quickly gained traction on the Internet, and even more by word of mouth. Soon, the official line was to laugh at it, and to make personal insults against its members. Not long after, it was smeared as evil and in the pay of Big Capitalism or Big Socialism, according to the preference of the smearer.

Then, briefly, politicians in many countries declared the Galactic Movement illegal, and harassed and criminalized its members. The EU and UN, too, got in on the act, trying to force national governments to shut down the Galactic Movement in their areas, and to bankrupt its supporters.

These attempts ceased suddenly, after Ramael one Saturday evening, having given twenty minutes’ warning, lifted one of the UN office buildings in New York off its foundations. Flew what was left of it, dangling from the ’mobile, slowly eastwards for a few hundred metres. And dunked it in the East River.

* * *

The Social Transition began in different ways in different places. But, once a government friendly to Galactic principles had been installed in a country, they took broadly the same steps in each case.

They repealed bad laws en masse. They ruthlessly pruned all unjust or intrusive laws from the statute books. They withdrew armies from conflicts around the world, and radically downsized them. They reduced the functions of government to their core – civil justice, criminal justice, and defence against aggression. They took down spy cameras, and closed communications interception centres.

They abrogated all commitments to the EU and UN. They sacked all government employees that failed to deliver a service people were voluntarily willing to pay for. They transferred control of services like schools and hospitals to the people who delivered those services. They freed universities to set their own fees, and to teach whatever they thought was best. They opened their borders without formalities to all members in good standing of the Galactic Movement.

They cut taxes enormously. They converted politicized “welfare” into honest insurance. They converted pensions into savings schemes. And they made sure that those, who had already paid for future expected benefits, did not lose their investments.

They stabilized their currencies, by ceasing to print money that did not represent wealth. They wound up the morally and financially bankrupt political state, in the same way as any other bankrupt entity. And they distributed its assets among its creditors.

They brought to justice those that, in the name of or in collusion with bad governments, had committed crimes against innocent people. And those, that had ordered, promoted or taken part in redistribution or confiscation of others’ fairly earned wealth, were made to compensate their victims.

Looking to the future, the new Galactic style governments committed to principles, which the founders of the Galactic Movement had laid down for the conduct of all human governments. Never again to make any individual pay more than their service was worth to that individual. Never to interfere without reasonable suspicion of real wrongdoing. Never to obstruct freedom of speech, opinion, religion, association or movement without good and provable reason. Never to violate anyone’s privacy without good and objective cause. Never unjustly to favour some over others. Never to lie to or to deceive the public. Never to obstruct honest business or trade. Never to allow officials rights or immunities denied to ordinary people.

* * *

The first countries to implement the Social Transition were, naturally, those in which members of the third wave were already in power. Soon they were joined by several democratic countries in which there was a conveniently timed election. For the effects of the Personal Transition were so strong, that no political party could compete in a fair election against the new independent leaders who were committed to Galactic principles.

The Social Transition spread to most of the rest of the world in just a few months. It happened in three main ways.

Plan Z was reserved for the difficult cases. Either a bad government received a little gentle persuasion of the military kind from Ramael, or we on Perinent pulled the worst of those in power to the Pit, or both. It wasn’t usually too long before the rest of the people got the message.

In Plan Y, democratic or supposedly democratic governments were brought down by scandals or by public demonstrations, and the way was then clear for a fresh election. In most cases, this produced a new government committed to Galactic principles. If not, we put them on the list for Plan Z.

The third way, Plan X, was like a domino effect, and happened particularly in Africa. Once a country had a Galactic style government, many people from neighbouring countries wanted to flock into it. But what the Galactic style government did, instead of having people moving across its borders, was to move its borders across the people. They admitted those who wished in the neighbouring countries into the Galactic Movement, and promised to defend them – with Ramael’s help if needed – if they were attacked by the local political government. These people became, in essence, Galactic colonists, while remaining in their own homes. Once there were enough of them in an area, the collapse of the old-style government in that area became inevitable.

* * *

The Personal and Social Transitions now, in their turn, fed the Economic. The more incentive good people had to be productive, the more productive they became. Without the dead weight of the politicals holding it down, the worldwide economy became truly sustainable – in the same way as a bush fire or a nuclear reaction is sustainable. And, in place of the politicals controlling us, we human beings began to take control of our world.

Good people started to receive, at last, the economic rewards they deserved. And that gave them the incentive to build on their talents, to develop their skills, to produce yet more. Success bred more success. Competence bred more competence. Prosperity bred more prosperity. Technology leaped forward. New, small companies flourished. A new generation of entrepreneurs began to bring their projects to fruition. Many became rich, as they deserved. And, by the miraculous phenomenon which economists call “trickle-down,” opportunities started to come even to the very poorest among good people. And so, their standard of living began to rise greatly – as they too deserved.

It got better. Now that people had incentives to be honest and dynamic instead of the opposite, many of the formerly lazy became dynamic. Many of the formerly dishonest became honest. As well as a big positive effect on the economy, there was, not surprisingly, a big improvement in the tone of societies, and so in the quality of life.

As to natural resources, we humans began at last to use them wisely. We stopped wasting them on wars and politics. We used them to benefit good people, not bad ones. We used them to help us gain access to more and more resources. We used finite resources wisely to get us towards the point where we wouldn’t need them any more, because by that time we would have developed better alternatives.

Meanwhile, the politicals were faced with a straightforward choice. If they wanted to survive, all they had to do was become human, behave up to human standards in future, and compensate those they had wronged. And where the compensations were financial, they had to include interest and 100 per cent damages.

But, unless and until the politicals reformed themselves and delivered the compensation they owed, good people didn’t waste time, resources or compassion on them. Those, that failed to become human, were frozen out of human civilization. And, far from being hailed as the superior species they had thought themselves to be while they were in power, they were derided as failures. Born with the potential to become human, but having failed to realize that potential.

If good people bothered to give them any attention, it was, perhaps, to spit on them. Or to bait them with words, such as “If you really believed carbon dioxide was a pollutant, why didn’t you stop breathing?” Or “If you really thought the world was overpopulated, why didn’t you kill yourself?” Or, for that little bit of extra special satisfaction, to give them a good kick in the goolies.

* * *

There was still much mopping up for us to do on Perinent. There were still politicians, bureaucrats and generals to be Pulled to the Pit from those places where the Social Transition was moving slowest. This went on for about 20 Perinent weeks, just over four Earth months.

Though we did have a break in the work. For we had now been on Perinent more than a local year, and the Time of Storms was again due, when we would be out of action for a week or more. As that time approached, we looked forward to our bed-rest, since we were all tired. Perhaps not surprisingly, for I and the rest of the Team had been working continuously at or near our peak for almost a Perinent year.

This year, the storms came almost a week later than they had the previous year – eleven Perinent weeks after the invasion, and seven after the departure of the last trainee. They lasted eleven days and nights.

In August, just five Earth months after the invasion, Hazael reported that human civilization had reached the tipping point towards going Galactic. For the Personal Transition was driving the Social, which drove the Economic, which in its turn fed back into the Personal. On our planet Earth, for the sixth time in Galactic history, a species was Awakening.

Friday, 3 October 2014

In Praise of Self Development and the Work Ethic

Today, I’m going to explore something natural to all human beings; the process I call self development. And I’m going to take a look at one part of this process, an attitude commonly called the “Work Ethic.”

Now some, mostly on the political left, like to pooh-pooh the work ethic. It’s a hangover from the old, spent force of Protestantism, they say. Or, it’s out of date and counter-productive. Or, it’s merely enslaving yourself for the benefit of an √©lite class of the rich.

While there’s some merit in these criticisms – particularly the last – I find that I can’t go the whole way with them. There is something about the work ethic that makes it seem, to me, both natural and good. And so, my purpose here is to try to tease out just what it is that makes me feel this way.

Human Development

The baby turns into the child, the child turns into the unruly teenager, and the teenager turns into the (more or less) civilized man or woman. All this we take for granted; we’ve been through it. For most of us, it wasn’t terribly pleasant at the time. But we pulled through. And now here we are, able and ready to pontificate on our highfalutin’ blogs over the ins and outs of ethics, or politics, or economics, or Life.

Yet not everyone manages to get this far. Many – too many – seem to reach a point of stagnation. Often, around the time their physical development reaches its peak, individuals’ mental development seems to stop.

I have my own view on this matter. For I know that, whatever ailments my body may have suffered in its 60+ years to date, my mind has never stopped growing. (Despite being pickled in alcohol on many occasions!) This is just as well for me; for I seem to be moving towards becoming one of that rare and very late maturing species, the generalist.

And, as a “Student of Generalism,” I find it natural to ask questions like: why has this process of mental growth, which seems to stop in so many others, continued in me over all these decades? What have I done differently?

Physical and Mental Development

Our physical development happens, for the most part, willy nilly; it is wired into us. Yet, even here, there are choices to be made. For example, I always found it far easier to grow outwards than to grow upwards. So it was fortunate for me that, unlike many whose minds are naturally stronger than their bodies, I had sufficient hand-eye co-ordination to be able to enjoy at least some sports. (There was a time when I used to bowl a cricket ball at around 70mph!). Thus I had an incentive to keep myself, at least moderately, physically fit.

As to mental development, we spend our childhoods having our brains stuffed with facts – and fantasies, too. We also soak in, to a greater or lesser extent, culture from around us. I was lucky enough to enjoy (if that is the right word) an old fashioned, classical education, which was then overlaid by a heavy dose of mathematics and science. That was a good combination. For it not only gave me a better than average understanding of the context in which we live our lives; but it also instilled in me strong desires for truth and progress. That helped to make me what I am – a natural radical who, nevertheless, can when necessary find traditional (or even square) roots.

Beyond a certain point, however, our development becomes almost entirely volitional. To do it, we have to want to do it. I wonder, perhaps, whether this may be part of the cause of the stagnation which so many people suffer. Where, for whatever reason, there’s no will to progress, how can there be much of a way?

Now there are some fine people, who volitionally continue their physical development. For example, many years ago I knew a young lad, whose talent for the game of cricket was far greater than my own. I faced his bowling in the nets when he was only 15, and couldn’t lay a bat on it. It was clear that, if he put in the necessary efforts and managed to stay fit, he could become a fine bowler.

This particular story had a (very) happy ending. My young friend first made it into county cricket, then all the way up to the England team, for whom he took more than 170 Test wickets. In the process, he put himself through many agonies; fast bowling isn’t the easiest of careers for someone who suffers from a bad back! But he became a household name, then a respected sports journalist, and he’s now (2014) an England selector.

I salute Angus, and all such people. But for many of us, and for myself in particular, it is the mind rather than the body which becomes the focus of self development. I will, therefore, confine my remarks in the remainder of this essay to mental development.

Five Dimensions

In human development – and, in particular, in analysis of my own development – I have identified five mental dimensions, in which an individual can grow. These dimensions have a one to one correspondence with the divisions within the philosophy, which I put forward in my recent book Honest Common Sense. Some of them also have two distinct flavours or directions; which I like to think of as inside or outside, yin or yang.

The first dimension is about what we are. Its out side is individuality. Now, it’s blatantly obvious that we are individuals; for each of us has our own body and our own mind. As I once heard it put, “if god had meant us to be collectivists, he’d have given us plugs in our stomachs and sockets in our backs.” And that means, that we should behave as individuals; we should, simply put, be ourselves.

The in side of this dimension is tolerance. That is, to accept others as individuals. And so, as long as they aren’t dishonest or lazy, and as long as they don’t commit real crimes, to accept them for what they are – even if they are very different from ourselves. It is this viewpoint, tolerance of the individual, which is the source of what some see as my far left views on subjects like racism, religion, gay “marriage” and immigration.

The second dimension is about how we think. The scientific part of my education gave me a head start in the out side of this dimension, which I characterize as seeking the truth. Finding truth is extremely important to me. For, if individuals disagree on the facts of an issue, it isn’t going to be easy to persuade them to agree on anything derivative, such as what should be done about it. And I greatly respect the scientific method, which – when applied honestly and with full attention to detail – is the best tool we human beings have so far developed for finding out truth.

The in side of this second dimension I think of as mental hygiene. Its externally visible aspects are, first, a strong reluctance to lie, to deceive or to bullshit anyone. And second, intolerance for lies, deceit and bullshit, and distaste for all the dishonest that peddle them.

The third dimension is about how we relate to each other. In this dimension, I find two of the traditional branches of Philosophy. The yang of this dimension is Ethics – how each of us should behave towards others – and the yin is Politics, the art or science of social organization and government.

As far as Ethics is concerned, each of us must evolve our own ideas of right and wrong, and then seek to do only the right. From some of our received culture – for example Confucius’ Golden Rule, the secular among the Ten Commandments and perhaps some form of the libertarian Non Aggression Principle – we get both a start, and a sense that the task is a tough one. In my book, I went so far as to write down Ten Ethical Laws, my own shot at a moral code common to all civilized people. That task, indeed, was hard enough; and trying to keep to my code is even harder!

As to Politics, my generalist nature leads me to look for fundamental principles which should underpin all civilized societies. I myself see four such principles, which form a hierarchy. I won’t go into detail here – that’s in the book – but I’ll simply name them, in order: justice, moral equality, rights and freedom. It is my view that any civilization worth the name must implement these four principles, or something very like them.

On to the fourth dimension, which is about what we do, and in particular Economics. Here, I find Franz Oppenheimer’s distinction, between the economic means of getting needs satisfied and the political means, to be key. The economic means is “one’s own labour and the equivalent exchange of one’s own labour for the labour of others,” or, otherwise said, work. In contrast, the political means is “the unrequited appropriation of the labour of others,” also known as robbery.

One of the most powerful – and unexpected – new ideas I had during the writing of my book, came when I considered altruism; the idea, so often peddled by the establishment, that we should not be “selfish” or “grasping,” but ought to devote ourselves to the welfare of others. But I suddenly realized that someone who works for a living, who uses Oppenheimer’s economic means, has already done their bit for others! For, as I had already identified, there is no nobler human activity than delivering goods or services which others are voluntarily willing to pay for. And this led to the converse thought; that it is the users of the political means that are the selfish and grasping, and that ought to be castigated and shunned for failing to devote themselves to the welfare of others.

The fifth and final dimension I call Honesty. In one sentence, honesty is being true to your nature. I contrast this with dishonesty, and in particular with its most visible form; that is, hypocrisy, or otherwise said, failing to practise what you preach.

The Work Ethic

Now, where does the work ethic fit in all this? It’s actually rather obvious. All of these dimensions of self development require the individual to put in work. Hard work.

The work ethic is, of course, most obvious in the economic sphere. But it can bring benefits in other areas, as well. For example, when I was a mathematics student at Cambridge, I was extremely diligent. And what leisure time I had, I spent on the cricket or hockey field, or in late night sessions at the Computer Lab. Looking back now, I think I was probably far too diligent; I should have got out more. But the result – a First – did give me some kind of start in my career.

It takes work to be an individual, too; not to try to be cool, not to be just part of a crowd, not to sponge off others,. It takes work to be tolerant – of people of different skin colours and sexual orientations, of Muslims, of Christians (I’m an agnostic these days), of Rastafarians and Pastafarians. To seek truth is harder work yet – requiring you, as it does, to examine what you are told by the media, to evaluate it, and to reject those parts (most) that are false. To keep to an Ethical code is harder still. To formulate, and then promote, new Political ideals is – well, that’s such hard work that only generalists like me will even try it. And to be, and to remain, honest – well, that’s the hardest work of all.

As to the work ethic in its economic sense, another identification I make in my book is that Competition, along with co-operation, is one of the parents of economic progress. I list there what I call the Four Paths of Competition: (1) Do it better. (2) Do it quicker. (3) Do it cheaper. (4) Do what others can’t. I myself, as a technologist, have used a combination of (1), (2) and (4) during my career; but the older I get, the more I seem to return to number (1) as my primary mode of earning.

It seems to me that those that criticize the work ethic actually hate competition. They’re too lazy, or too dishonest, to do things better, or quicker, or cheaper; or to make any effort to innovate. And a lot of them are so lazy and dishonest, that they use Oppenheimer’s political means to live off others’ efforts.

Oh, and most of them are collectivist, intolerant, liars and bullshitters, criminals and/or political operators. Many are hypocrites, too.

In Conclusion

Now, I can answer my earlier questions: Why is my mind still growing? And, what have I done differently to those that have let themselves stagnate?

My answer to both is the same. I have, over many decades, adhered – more or less diligently – to the work ethic. They have not.