The Role of Authority and Liberty in a Just Democracy
I have this one contention to make and prove in this essay: that the essence of all just authority stems from the common natures of mankind, and that the essence of all just liberty stems from the common differences of mankind. No political theorist will be at odds with me on this one point of my thesis: authority and liberty are diametrically opposed acts. Authority implies a limitation, a regulation, a restriction, an inhibition of the desires. Liberty implies no limitation, no relugation, ro restruction, no inhibition of the desires. But then there is the question of, "To Whom?" To whom is this liberty, and to whom is this authority? For a man to be allowed to steal property whenever he wishes will be a liberty to himself, but authority to the one whom is his target. For a man to be disallowed from a certain activity is an act of authority. When a man is allowed the right to freedom of speech, it is liberty to himself and an act of authority to the one who hears it. These are simple and confined cases of activity and the role of might or justice as it might appear. When we are judging an entire society, an act of authority is an inhibition on a certain action or activity that is enforced against all members of the commonwealth. Likewise, an act of liberty is this lack of authority, a lack of regulation, inhibition, or restriction -- liberty is the right to commit a certain action without deterrence.
There are several ways in which our political theorists, old and modern, have examined the problems of society. It always seemed to be either in the view of a liberationist versus that of a slaver. Yet these words might be slanted to describe it accurately, and depending upon the ones examining the situation, the words will be switched. For example, when we speak of liberty, it is the whole of society allowing something. While liberty is highly thought of, few would agree that we ought to have the freedom to murder and pillage. Furthermore, when we think of restriction or inhibition or oppression, we think very low of it, yet there is a consensus that such restrictions and oppression should be applied in the case of murder and pillage. An individual might have a well thought out argument, but once they say "there should be limits to freedom," it is assumed that they are Fascist oppressors. Allow me to draw another example of liberty and authority. During the formation of the United States as a nation, developing from the revolutionary fighters to statesmen and politicans, during this time, it became a battle of Federalists versus anti-Federalists. The argument of the Federalists was this: that as a united front, the same laws that apply in one state ought to apply in another state, or at least with some degree of authority. The Federalist argument was, essentially, an Authoritarian argument. The anti-Federalist argument was the underlying idea that one state can make its own laws that are different from any other state, and that no state (or states) can make laws on the territory of any other state. One might even decide to follow this argument to its logical conclusion and grant every town or large city its own laws without interference from the outside world's political spectrum. The anti-Federalists were essentially Libertarians. When I apply these terms Authoritarian and Libertarian, it is not so much to make a value judgment or to take the side of one over the other. Rather, it is to help simplify the argument at hand; and, as I just said, authority is wholly agreed upon when it is enforcing the right to life and the right to protection from murder, etc., etc..
To better help illuminate the dilemma that society is presented with, it is best to take into consideration the different motives that each person has. In the case of the Federalist versus the anti-Federalist, there are two motives, both of which seem to stem from the same sense of liberty, independence, and security. For the anti-Federalist, there is the fear that the other states might create some arbitrary policy, some awkward and idiotic statute, that would infringe largely upon his own rights and his own freedoms, while it hurt the other states none at all. In the case of the southern states versus the northern states prior to the civil war, the great dilemma was over slavery. Southern states were afraid that a Federalist policy would allow the northern states to dictate the rule on their own land. The situation could be turned around entirely. A northern state, during the formation of the nation, could potentially fear the other states enforcing a law allowing slavery on their state in a Federalist decision. So, understandably, the motive behind the anti-Federalist was a Libertarian argument, with the essential good belief that the people of a single state or province are enough to make wise, sound, and just policy.
Now, let's examine the motive behind the Federalist, the individual whose primary ideal is that the laws of a nation are uniform where necessary. What is the motive for this Federalist? It is for the idea that there should be one basic, essential, humane code that reigns throughout every state. That the basic rights to which mankind should be endowed are the same in one state as any other state, and that nobody should ever have to avoid certain states because a certain right of theirs might be too important. For example, a Federalist might believe that the right to religion is the most important right of all. To him, the praise and worship of the lord has taken so many forms and has filled so many lives with contentness, that it should be respected no matter where the religious nomads decide to travel. Even if in a state that is inhabited by intolerant neanderthals, every citizen in this nation should have their right to religion protected. The anti-Federalist is afraid that the collective of states will ignore their rights, while the Federalist is afraid that a single state will ignore their rights or the rights of others who are equally deserving. Essentially, their desires are the same: to create a just society, where the rights of all are respected. The way of going about it is where their argument springs up.
Before returning wholly to the argument of authoritarian policy versus libertarian policy, there is something that needs to be addressed -- something that has often been brought up when considering political theory. Starting with the real boom in political philosophy, the publication and proliferation of Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes, there has been a question of man's nature. In this book, Hobbes argued for a bitter, cruel, heartless, and selfish image of mankind. Continuing on with this style, other political philosophers of the Enlightenment would make judgments as well. Even in our day, some Communist and Socialist defenders might make the plea that mankind is genuinely good, and therefore a Communist or Socialist organization of society is necessary for the betterment of all mankind. Capitalist and Imperialist apologists will make the argument that mankind is genuinely evil, and a Free Trade system is necessary for him to make the most out of that nature. Etc., etc., etc.. It can quite clearly be seen that philosophers have placed a great deal of emphasis on the nature of mankind: his particular impulses, his natural desires, his patience, his goodness, his self-love, his will power, his ambition, etc..
We should not rely heavily on the matter of mankind's nature. Hobbes argued that a strong king is necessary to maintain order and goodness in the commonwealth, since mankind's nature was bruttish. One might logically argue, then, that if men are all evil by necessity, why would we respond to this fact by placing one of those cruel, vindictive men in a position where their wrath would go as far as their power? That is to say, if we have reached the conclusion that all man can do is evil, then what good have we accomplished by giving one man an unrestricted, uninhibited rule over other men, with no check to his powers? The monarchist and dictator enthusiast might reply with this: the man in charge will be, by default, rational and kind. Why should we believe this? After all, he is a member of the human race. If he is, "by default," rational and kind, one might question: shouldn't the rest of mankind be rational and kind, if he is, since there is a particular uniformity in the emotions of this particularly curious species? Whatever the case of mankind's nature may be, one indisputable fact must be understood: it cannot be the sole body of evidence for which we make a political system if our aim is to create peace, independence, liberty, and security.
With that matter of the nature of mankind out of place, we are back to the question of authoritarian policy versus that of libertarian policy. We understand quite easily the question which has been raised by so many historical struggles. In the formation of our nation, there was at first a seesaw effect, first with a libertarian confederacy, and then with an authoritarian nation state. Then we saw the same struggle rise again with the slavery controversy, some southern states supporting the Nullification Theory, where a state can nullify a statute agreed upon by other states. Again, in each of these cases, we see Libertarian and Authoritarian advocates colliding. In our modern world, we have the United Nations. A collective of nations can reach a certain policy and then enact that policy on other nations. It is the same struggle, the same battle, over political policy which has been waged under so many different names, under so many different slogans, by so many different groups with their different interests and political ideology.
The history of mankind is one full of bitter and absurd cruelties. Among these, is the fact that the cult that has preached "love thy enemy" has been the most brutal, vindictive, torturous, and heartless of any religion. Christianity was built first upon deception and lies, and would soon gain adherents by appealing to fear and intolerance. No matter how graphically preachers will describe the tortures of hells to sunday school children, and how Christians are here to save us, there is one fact that no Christian has replied to with satisfaction: that without any religion, mankind would be united, not divided -- that we would build societies, instead of waging wars. The Xenophobic nature of the Christian religion is undoubted. Today, they see Homosexuals as abominations. Even Homosexuals who call themselves Christians. I imagine that if the Christians of the world today found a sect of Christians who, by tradition and culture, placed their electrical outlets coming out of the floor and not out of the wall, that such a culture would be "so different" that they could only be "satan-inspired." The imagination of Christians today, or at least Fundamentalist Christians today, is so restricted, that they cannot possibly understand that these differences, as amazingly slight as they are, are not enough to mean that another people have no emotions, no sense of humanity, no sympathy or kindness or warmth.
In the previous example, in examining Christian heritage and what it has brought to us, we see a very clear example of a group that holds no value for peace or liberty. One would see a failed example of society in the Christian movement, at least one who was not blinded by superstition or defected by poor reasoning. Some political theorists of the past centuries have attempted to offer safe guards to help society stay on the right track of promoting liberty while defending security. Among these inventions that have come about, there is the constitution. Based on what is called Constitutional Theory, the essence of a constitution is to set about some basic and simple principles for which other laws are to be formed and molded around. While a constitution seems like a good start, like the beginning to a happy story in a nationhood, it has fallen victim to certain problems. For example, as much as a constitution might seem to guarantee freedom and liberty, while protecting the right to life and property of all citizens, there are still many domestic oppositions to it. Even with a clear and basic understanding of the United States Constitution and its precepts, many evangelists and religionists want to implement an amendment that declares the country as a Christian state. The amendment to protect all citizens from discrimination based on their gender is absent and has remained absent for the centuries that suffragists fought for it. I can think of at least one half of the population that would support it off the top of my head. Even though a constitution has been spelled out, protecting certain liberties, such as assembly and speech and right to bear arms, and has allocated power to certain branches of government, and allowed certain checks -- despite all of this organization of the government, the United States has been plagued with Imperialism, the toxic excesses of a Capitalist economy, corrupt politicians, vicious and war-driven presidents, and armies of brainwashed citizens. And while every Freethinker looks on society, analyzing the motives and actions of its people, we sometimes cannot help but think: those people with the least intelligence and greatest cruelty have always been the ones to gain power.
So, then, what could effectively be used in place of a constitution? I don't think anything could so easily replace it. In times of war and economic recessions, the path of mankind has easily fallen into darkness. Constitutions and good laws were never enough to protect the rights and liberties of every good and innocent person, from others, or more notably, from their own government. One might accurately bring up the argument that, though the constitution (in any country) might tend to be defective, it is the greatest defense that a country can afford against corruption. With all of this considered, I believe that there is another theory that ought to be applied to constitutional theory to increase the effectiveness of a just Democracy.
That theory is the thesis of this paper: that the essence of all just authority stems from the common natures of mankind, and that the essence of all just liberty stems from the common differences of mankind. In the first kind, when I speak of authority, it must be understood that I am talking about an imposed, enforcement requirement or restriction. When I speak of just authority, I mean authority that no Libertarian would disagree with -- authority that is against murderers, rapists, and thieves. A just authority stems from the common natures of mankind. It is the nature of all men to want to preserve their happiness, their security in life and goods, and their liberty. With this in mind, the governments of the world have made a right decision in opposing simple things, such as murder, stealing, or pillaging. In the second kind, when I speak of liberty, it must be understood that I am talking about an activity which is not completely restricted by the government. A just liberty stems from the common differences of mankind. Among the most common differences of mankind, there stands difference in physical appearance, difference in opinion of things religious, political, moral, and social, and difference in taste of cultural products. In reviewing these basic differences, all just Democracies have passed three constitutional rules: that no person can be restricted by their appearance (gender, race, sexuality, etc.), that no person can be restricted from speaking, thinking, organizing, protesting, and petitioning, and that no person can meet penalties for their taste in cultural products.
When deciding whether to make something a law or a constitutional amendment, the question is the matter of intrinsicness. When we say that we will protect the happiness, security, and liberty of each citizen, is that truly what all men and women have always wanted? Yes, of course. It is a common nature of all men. When we say that we will allow the differences in appearance, opinion, and taste to go uninhibited, is that truly a difference to everyone? Yes. It is a common difference of all men. In the first case, it is the commonness, and the second, it is the difference. That is a matter of how intrinsic it is. The two above mentioned rules would be constitutional, because it is an intrinsic nature to mankind. Laws, on the other hand, are more of the interpreted constitution. It was once the law that to steal ice from the pond was a crime, since in that era, such ice was used for antiquated refrigerators. To enact such a law then would ensure the happiness, security, and liberty of all, but today, it would simply be a rather arbitrary restriction. Today, there might be a sign on the side of the road that says no traffic between 4:00 PM and 6:00 PM. This might be a law enacted to protect and defend the security and liberty of those who ride this highway. Today, it has a purpose, but two hundred years ago, it would have been a simple arbitrary restriction on liberty. These are laws: they attend to the immediate issue while interpreting the constitution. A nation that has implemented something as primitive as ice-stealing into their constitution, would be just as arbitrary and unjust if the nation had implemented the Christian religion or nationalized genocide.
There is still more to this theory. But, just one more tangent before returning to the question. When mankind has organized himself and herself into the hierarchies or disciplines of society, what was the effective cause of their goal? At least, beyond instinctual grouping? Among the primary interests of mankind, there is his own security and life, and then mating is another interest. The subsequent consequences of mating, as always, has been children, and combining all partners, it is a family. Societies and civilizations rise up from families in villages and towns. Yet, once mankind interacted with other men, conflicts were created. They were bound together by their interest of security and mating, and yet they find that this can be a curse to them. Other men in this society try to inhibit their liberties, something that was unheard of in a societyless globe. And still other men compromise the right to security by imposing tax or theft. The organization of society has created so many follies, yet we seem to still be bound together. With this rise of organized society, among all humans there was one desire: independence. That is to say, the right to do as they will, without hindrance from others, so long as they harm none. Independence. Even narrow down the scenario. Let's not consider a nation. Let's consider a village of twenty. Democratically, the tribe had decided to make it against the rules for any person to practise a non-orthodox religion. This was a infringement of liberty by the whole. It was not an act of defending independence. Even in a smaller setting, with three travellers, one would not like his freedom of opinion ever restricted, and yet with the other two, acting as stronger, might be able to impose such a limitation.
Independence is the greatest desire of any man living in a society. In a federated nation, authority exists at many different levels. There is the town, village or city, with a mayor. There is the state with a governor. And there is a nation with a president. Each one of these levels of power is dominant over all those beneath it. If a president makes a law for his nation, it effects all the states under his command. If a governor makes a statute for his state, it effects all towns and counties in that state. If a mayor makes a policy for his city, it effects all the people in his region of control. This sort of governmental structure is based on the hierarchy organization of centralism. Whenever an authoritarian position makes use of its power to enforce a certain regulation, it must be understood that the regulation must be in accordance with the common natures of mankind. If the regulation is a defense of liberty, such as the first amendment defending the right to speech or a supreme court decision defending the right to bear arms, then the libertarian policy must be understood to be in accordance with the different natures of mankind. This idea of independence must be expanded further in comparison with the libertarian versus authoritarian ideology.
The top command might pass down an authoritarian decision: he might make it a crime to wear no clothing in public. This might be great for every state: it is in accordance with their ethical and moral code, as sickening as that might seem. It might be great for every state, except one state, along the equator. In this one state, it is extremely hot and muggy. Despite what the ethical codes of their ancestors have taught them, these people in this state have adopted a more practical and thoughtful belief system. For centuries, they have gone without clothing, without any form of shame whatever. The religious code that you must wear clothing has led to death by exhaustion for too many of them. In this case, we have an authoritarian decision which is unjust, because it is not based on the common nature of mankind. It is based on the common nature of some of mankind. In this respect, it is an oppressive regulation. It is the case of several states enforcing their unjust ethical code on the state where such an ethical code can lead to the death and sickness of its inhabitants. The same can be said of many other regulatory laws. Perhaps it is an authoritarian decision that would curtail potatoe farming, and it would be great for every state, except for that one that relies heavily on potatoe farming. The issue can change greatly from case to case. Perhaps it is a matter of schooling, or health care, or anything of that like. In rural areas, the people think that the schools ought to teach woodsman skills. And in inner cities, people think that hospitals ought to treat a wider variety of bacteria and viruses.
On a side note, one might want to consider the term "interests." It seems that almost forever, the interests of masses tied intrinsically to their political ideology. It seemed that international peace, justice towards lower animal life, and fair economics in the global scale -- all of these things became interests of our revolutionary class. And, it also seemed that things such as school prayer, so-called "free trade" agreements, and war became interests of the counter-revolutionary class. Initially, when the term "interests" came to have actual, significant meaning, it was implied in a generic term. One would have the interest of maintaining happiness, security, and liberty. These terms were interpreted with different views by different citizens. Low prices on food, a just police force, and the right to freedom of religion -- these may in fact be the best things for many of the citizens of a country, and to them it is in their interest to secure these things. Just as a person might have an interest in a good hunt that he may feed himself and his family, a person would have the interest as a citizen for low prices on food or respectable government. Interests in these primitive times did not include the question of what was just or what was unjust, whether free trade agreements hurt other nations or whether exploitation of others was a crime. Rather, they were just interests. And, in this sense, an interest is simply a desire.
With that understood, we see that the interests of the people must be greatly considered. What the people of a nation desire should be what is enforced. Yet, to help them stay along a path that protects minorities from majority rule, constitutions have been enacted. Perhaps one of the greatest aids to constitutions would include this theorem: the essence of all just authority stems from the common natures of mankind, and that the essence of all just liberty stems from the common differences of mankind. If this policy is followed through with, then the individual liberties of all private citizens will be protected while the personal securities of the masses are guarded from intrusion.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Punkerslut (or Andy Carloff) has been writing essays and poetry on social issues which have caught his attention for several years. His website www.punkerslut.com provides a complete list of all of these writings. His life experience includes homelessness, squating in New Orleans and LA, dropping out of high school, getting expelled from college for "subversive activities," and a myriad of other revolutionary actions.