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Freedom is pricey; the alternative is ruinous
As we point out regularly, our intention here is not simply to identify individuals or even groups responsible for the mess we find ourselves in, but to look into the systems that allow such people to exercise disproportionate and corrosive power and authority over the rest of us.
The aim is to expose some of the failings of the status quo so as to avoid repeating them and so to harden up the new democracy that we call panocracy.
If we understand what we've been doing wrong then we might avoid it in future.
It's also critical that we understand what's gone right – and an awful lot has - so that we don't throw those babies out with the bathwater.
We assume that here in the West we are 'free' – this is one of the prime selling points of democracy, like tail fins on a '59 Chevy Impala.
The past 3 years have shown us quite clearly that any freedom we think we have can be removed with relative ease. Like tail fins on cars, our basic freedoms went out of style too.
One of the aims of panocracy is to reduce the hierarchical structures and their fuhrers that we see in today's failing western states. These are vestigial remains of our primitive past that have endured long past their usefulness and which now seek simply to elevate themselves to the level of emperors. Our current political systems and culture have allowed them unprecedented opportunities for this.
Freedom of the kind we consider essential to a civilised society is anathema to these people and their fiefdoms.
The Measure of Freedom
First, let's assume that we can each know how to make good choices that directly benefit us. Note that here we're talking about freedom of action as opposed to freedom of expression.
We also need to be clear that public policy is about action and not words, although you might be forgiven for thinking the latter.
We all constantly have to make decisions about our actions. Do I cross the road here or at the traffic lights? Should I book this holiday for myself and my wife? Should I vote for candidate A or candidate B?
Some of them affect only us, some our nearest and dearest and some affect everyone. The potential power that people have varies inversely with the number of people affected: I have complete power over where I cross the road but my wife might(!) have a different idea about where we go on holiday. I have no power over what either candidate A or B will do when they're elected.
Like everyone else, I want the best outcome for me from any policy decision that might affect my life. The 'best outcome' of some policy change is the one that will benefit me in some way or at least preserve the status quo. A benefit to my wife is possibly a benefit to me also; a benefit to my employer may also be a benefit to me, and so on. Each of us thinks this way even though we might not be conscious of it.
Each of us is the ultimate activist group, serving our own desires and interests.
So the best policy for me could occur only if I had complete freedom to choose it and clearly that's impossible in a society of more than one person. For example, with complete freedom of action, one would be free to rob, assault and murder.
Now, let's just dwell for a moment on the idea of complete freedom and take a moment to remember that the rest of Nature has no legal system, no moral code, no commandments. Theft, assault and murder are all 'legal' to the birds in my garden. Theft goes on a bit, but the other two are not observable – they don't really happen in the 'natural' world ('murder' and 'assault' apply to individuals of the same species). And yet, birds in general have been around for sixty million years or more. The bird world sets a high bar to humans for longevity. And they've done it with zero commandments.
We humans have become highly collaborative. If, like the birds in my garden, we each had to go every day and find our food and shelter there'd be a lot less attention to footie, celebrity chefs or Ed Sheeran. Over the millennia we've found that we can specialise and trade our skills and benefit from the goods they provide. (As far as I know 60 million years of evolution has produced no extensive collaborations between nest-building birds and worm-finding birds.)
“Free as a bird” turns out to be a deeper truth than it might first seem.
So we must give up some of our freedom in return for having a collaborative and productive society. This is a contract that most people are prepared to enter, especially those who don't want to be robbed, assaulted or murdered.
Policy formation is therefore about balancing our loss of freedom of action with the gains that accrue from collective action. Our decision on any policy should evaluate the one against the other.
How could we possibly compare those things? There are so many intangibles that we would be comparing apples with oranges. This is a problem that's been around since the dawn of time and one that has already been solved.
The solution that humans came up a long time ago is value and that is measured by price.
Price is the way we have come up with to compare apples with oranges and we all understand how it works. Price is a numerical measure of the value of some good, in this case our contribution to society (our labour) and of the gains that have been accrued by collaborating (products and services and our freedom to consume them).
We all constantly assess the value of goods and services: if we think some product is too expensive we don't buy it; if we can't sell our house, say, we may have to reduce its price. The prices of goods and labour are mostly determined in a complex and unfathomable soup of trade where both the buyer and seller in each transaction get value.
What we could do is value our freedoms against the benefits from our collaborative efforts. Is the loss of freedom X worth benefit Y? However, it's impossible to be uniform as people differ considerably in the value they place on these things. Just as for goods and services, some people will value a loss of freedom higher than others so we mustn't assume that there's a one-size-fits-all prescription.
Freedom of Action in our Panocracy
RFCs in our panocracy are much more granular than the packaged, homogenised Bills with stowaway bombshells that we have in our legislation now (and which we don't get to vote on anyway). That is to say, in the panocracy people have votes on individual policy proposals and the details are exposed rather than buried.
This will make it a lot easier than now to evaluate the effects of each RFC on our freedoms of action.
Panocracy encourages the critical analysis of new RFCs rather than burying any issues under a mountain of arcane subsections and legalese. So any attempts to hack away some freedom or other would be spotted at the early stages by exactly the kind of people who are currently exercised about ID cards or central bank digital currencies.
Individual freedoms would thus be better protected and perhaps even increased – or maybe we should say restored.
Next Time we're going to look at mass formation. An administrative system like our Panocracy has to be robust against takeover by ill-considered and plain daft ideologies. The formation of cults – as happens regularly in democracies and has happened again recently - is something that the panocracy must guard against.