Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Decentralization of All Power

Submitted by John Terranova (A.K.A. Johnny T)

Starting with a distinction between the sacred and the secular, I approach the question of government with the belief that both Christians and non-Christians have equal insight and wisdom concerning this realm. As a topic of general revelation, I tend to side-step questions about the divine intentions of government -- rather than trying to discover the "nature" of government, I think we are free to create what ever form of social organization we need to. Personally, the government that I like best is the government that does the best job of promoting peaceful coexistence with everybody (a sentiment I assume most people will share with me).

I think that Libertarian-Socialism offers some ideas that might help achieve this desired end. Basically, Libertarian-Socialism wants to decentralize power -- to diffuse power as much as possible. Classic Capitalist-Libertarianism shares this basic goal, but has failed to achieve it. Capitalist-Libertarianism stifles the centralization of State power, but it promotes the concentration of private power. Today, the largest multi-national corporations have more global power and influence than many countries. Just as unchecked State power can result in massive abuses, so unchecked private power can result in the same abuses -- power can be abused whether it is public or private.

Libertarianism tries to offer the individual as much personal freedom as possible. Capitalist-Libertarianism tends to judge personal freedoms in economic terms -- the more stuff people have, the more they can consume, the happier they are; it positions people as consumers, choosing our favorite brands in the market place.

Socialist-Libertarianism recognizes that people are more than consumers, and that in addition to certain economic needs, people also need free time, family and social interaction, quality of life, and quality of environment. Around 200 years of Capitalist experimentation demonstrates that concentrated private power reduces the quality of these non-economic aspects of our lives. Without labor laws, the free market creates extremely oppressive working conditions that dehumanize workers (examples include Victorian England, pre-labor law industrialized USA, and contemporary developing countries that expose their work forces to the Capitalist policies of the WTO, IMF and World Bank).

Libertarian Socialism seeks to protect individuals from oppressive public AND private power. To do this, the government would need to be strong and independent enough to resist private interests from hijacking public social structures. This strong government's role would be to ensure the public's freedom from both private and public institutions. The government would have the role of policing itself -- but since this creates problems of accountability, complete governmental transparency would be necessary. This transparency would allow for both public and private scrutiny of everything that takes place in the public domain.