Saturday, November 27, 2010

Jurisdictional Aterritorialism: Bastiat vs. Bauer

 French economist C. Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850)
was a staunch defender of laissez-faire capitalism.

 Austrian politician Otto Bauer (1881-1938)
was a staunch defender of social-democratic Marxism.

One would expect these two thinkers to agree on little, but surprisingly, they developed conceptions of their respective economic systems which were startlingly similar.

Frederic Bastiat formulated a conception of capitalism that came to be known – in the course of its development of the idea by philosophers such as Paul Emile de Puydt and Gustave de Molinari – as Panarchism, meaning "theory of the rule of all".

Bastiat defended, on purely capitalist grounds, the right of an individual to choose - freely, voluntarily, and reversibly - which government or agency governs, protects, and defends him. Bastiat wanted to secure this freedom to individuals for the purpose of creating what could be thought of as a "free market in governance".
He saw that a government, granted sole and monopolistic jurisdiction in its territory, would give its denizens only the “freedom of choice” over which among a predetermined set of public figures would wield legitimate power in said jurisdiction, and that to give inhabitants freedom of choice regarding which governmental institution they were to be governed under had evidently never crossed the mind of public officials.

Otto Bauer developed a conception of socialism known as National Personal Autonomism, or Cultural National Autonomism.
Bauer defended, on purely Marxist grounds, the right of a community or a group of persons to choose – freely, voluntarily, and reversibly – which government or agency governs, protects, and defends them. He wanted to secure this freedom to peoples, nations, and communities for the purpose of "organiz[ing] nations not in territorial bodies but in simple association of persons.
Bauer saw that nations of people were often separated by geographic and territorial jurisdictional boundaries, and wanted to give communities of peoples separated from the rest of their like the ability to secure for themselves communal autonomy, meaning that they would have the ability to govern themselves without regard to the regulation and authority of those who have jurisdiction over surrounding and / or adjacent areas.
Bauer saw this right as crucial for protecting cultural and religious minorities. He further imagined that each cultural group would have representatives at the nationwide level. His views were embraced by Jewish groups, but denounced by Vladimir Lenin, as well the Austrian corporativist-fascist regime of the 1930s.
So now that we can see that the idea that people should be free to choose which security- and justice-provision agency (i.e., government) has the authority to govern them – voluntarily and with the ability to change their minds at any time – has been defended with perfect fidelity to both the capitalist and socialist economic systems, we understand that capitalism and socialism are not only compatible, but also that they can exist side-by-side as well as within and without one another, and even on the same parcel of landed property.

These concepts are minarchistic (meaning that they are theories of the rule by the least possible amount of compulsion or coercion necessary) as well as localistic (meaning that they are theories which advocate for decision-making power to be concentrated as close to the party or parties in question as possible).
I believe that it is proper to conclude that a society adopting Bastiat's idea would be absolutely tolerant of socialist autonomous communities, as would a society adopting Bauer's idea be absolutely tolerant of those who embrace capitalism, whether as communities of individuals practicing capitalism, as individual persons practicing autarchism – which is self-governance by individuals – or as any combination of the two.
I believe that this type of society would be more open-minded, tolerant, voluntarism-oriented, and empowering at the grassroots citizen-advocacy level, and also that great strides towards creating this type of society could be achieved by simply reverting to the kind of government which was outlined in the Articles of Confederation.
As in Bauer's idea, to have representatives at the national level could be useful, especially if there remained the freedom to disassociate from and revoke pledges to submit to the supremacy of the national government.
If this were the case, the set of politicoeconomic ideologies existing within the United States would look less like the duopolistic two-party system we have today – under which (though seemingly pitted against one another for purposes of election) the parties must compromise their own ideologies in order to get things done, often causing the goals of one side to be made ineffectual by the provisions added by the other side – but would more closely resemble the litany of ideological caucuses and public-interest organizations in the House of Representatives.
This way, representatives of each group would be free to join and leave coalitions at any time in order to form more sizable and noticeable collections of representatives so that each small coalition would be able to negotiate for its own needs to be addressed in each bill to be considered, so that those citizens and communities who sanction their own representation by the national delegates.
By doing this, groups would ensure that their ideologies would be malleable and tentative, but also resolute in a case-by-case way, so that they would not repel smaller groups from joining with them temporarily to affect some cause, nor would they risk becoming entrenched in a single economic or civic position aimed at attracting the support of a simple- or super-majority  of the electorate for as long as they can manage to do so.
This would undoubtedly create a conflict with the constitutional requirement that all federal law must promote the "general welfare"; i.e., it must not benefit solely those people in specific territories. It is a complicated thing to argue that the representation mechanism should not truly be based on geography alone.
I would only hope that in the process of bringing about such a fundamental change in the structure of governance itself, various electoral reforms would be enacted, causing a parliamentary-type system with opportunities for wide varieties and large numbers of alternative political parties and organizations to replace the two-party system currently in place, but also allowing for true individual liberty, communal autonomy, localism- and subsidiarity-oriented governance, and confederation.

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