The minimization of necessary manipulation within society.

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As a person interested in both history and philosophy, I acknowledge the necessity within societies for the presence of a certain amount of manipulation against the self interests of both individuals and groups. This is because of the nature of the "social contract" where a certain amount of self interest has to be sacrificed in order to facilitate a certain amount of collective protection and disbursement of resources.

However, would it not be in the interest of this collective that the manipulation of both individuals and organized groups of people be kept to a minimum? When using the term "manipulation" I refering to the use of coercion, deception, and harassment to make a person or persons do things they do not want to do, whether they like it or not. As stated ealier, I acknowledge that a certain amount of manipulation is necessary for an organized society to exist. For example, there is the issue of law enforcement and the imprisonment of people who break the law. This indeed is manipulative in nature, because the goal of law enforcement and the imprisonment of criminals contains an inherent amount of coercion. However, as evidenced by activist individuals and groups, the power given to law enforcement and to prisons to manipulate people away from being criminals must be kept to a certain minimum, due to the potential abuse of this power for purposes that have nothng to do with law enforcement.

In an earlier post, I had posed a similar strain of thought. The reason why I am making this new post is that I would like to create a discussion about the "redistribution of power," in contrast to the usual paradigm of "redistribution of wealth." For sure, when a person has much wealth, he or she can commit massive influence or even outright manipulation. What I am saying is that money and property is only a small part of the problem. The real issue is that of power, the abuse of power, and the need to focus more how people manipulate each other and less on how people use or misuse wealth. I welcome feedback. Thank you for reading this.

micahjr34
Joined:
Feb. 7, 2011 3:57 pm

Comments

micahjr34 here. I would like to add some clarification to my previous post.

I strongly dislike being manipulated, even though I fully concede that in a society some manipulation is necessary. My personal ideology is that when a function is needed in a society that can be exhausting, dangerous, or just plain unpleasant, coercion might be needed to fill that need. However, what I would like to think is that wherever there is a form of manipulation used to cover such a need within society, a deliberate and active search can be launched to find a way to act on that need in a way that is unmanipulative. I do not believe that an ideal or even a real society can exist that is 100% free from coercion or be 100% coercive. Let there be some form of manipulation where it is needed, and replace it when a better unmanipulative way is found. If a society is 25% manipulative, why not strive to make it only 15% or 10% manipulative?

micahjr34
Joined:
Feb. 7, 2011 3:57 pm

I have come to a point where I need to make a further clarification:

I would like to keep taxes at a minimum for everyone, but I acknowledge that for the sake of sustaining the government with a perspective of the long term, that this minimum must be higher than I would at first have thought. I acknowledge that to pay off the debt with its interest, and to properly fund the government so that we as a nation do not need to go into debt in the future, the taxes not only have to be raised, they have to stay that way. Regarding the issue of minimizing the manipulation of government and people within society, I would like to deliberately find things to replace in how the government runs so that there is less coercion of people into doing things they do not want to do. However, when it comes to taxes, I admit that we will have to bite the bullet.

micahjr34
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Feb. 7, 2011 3:57 pm

micahjr, you are after my own heart. This sums it up handily: "I would like to create a discussion about the "redistribution of power," in contrast to the usual paradigm of "redistribution of wealth.""

For most, this is the same thing. While I agree there is a high correlation, this is only true is a rampant and unregulated capitalist arrangement. And this is precisely why I am a self proclaimed democratic socialist.

Now before all the naysayers come out of the woodworks here, I think there needs to be a clarification of exactly what I mean by that. Most Americans hear "socialism" and they automatically go to that place in their head where they make it synonymous to autocratic or totalitarian regimes like China or the Soviet Union. Then they start with what they percieve to be "clever" quips about how well that worked for them.

In reality, I don't believe there has been a living example of what I dream of in the history of the planet - although some exemplify certain facets of it.

First off, any discussion of these issues needs to consider how historically arbitrary our notions of personal property are. I know this is already going to set off alarms but just hear me out. Most people assume that the capitalist arrangements for how we establish property rights are a given, natural, and immutable. This couldn't be farther from the truth. Much of the basis of claims regarding "wealth redistribution" are founded on these assumptions of how wealth "should be" or "ought to be" distributed in the first place.

Example (and I will admit I am over simplifying here): In feudalism, the serfs earned a right to have a type of partial ownership over land of the lords simply by virtue of the fact that they were the ones who worked the earth. So, you have these arrangements where lords would owna bunch of land and then say to some serfs, hey you can live on this part of my land and you get all the crops from this particular section of my property (essentially it became their property) and then you work this other part of my land too that I get to keep. This is a completely different understanding of how "property" rights work. This really is just about showing how friggin arbitrary "property rights" claims really are.

Thus when people get into conversations about redistribution, they often forget that the distribution they are assuming is the "natural" or "right" one is actually a product of power relations and a historically contingent system that divides up who has the "right" to what. That is, the part that people don't acknowledge is that our current system of distribution involves power, force, and manipulation even absent governmental interference.

So, rather than continuing to operate within that system and then attempt to "redistribute" the wealth to create some sense of justice and economic and social stability, perhaps a system that has a more stable and equitable arrangement to begin with would be better.

So, what does democratic socialism mean? Well, there really isn't one system. Most people think that it means that the government owns everything and then the people democratically elect people to run particular industries and what not. This is certainly one of the arrangements forwarded by those who claim to be democratic socialists but it is not what I think would be a good idea. This system inherently become autocratic in nature and also creates a type of fabricated monopoly which also is not that good.

So, here is the line of demarcation. I really have no problem with using free markets to distribute the vast majority of goods. For example, I really don't want the FDA trying to run the local restraunts in my town.

What's the alternative? Change the ownership laws and continue to let markets work and companies to be privately owned. Here would be the difference: Companies would be REQUIRED to be worker owned. This goes a step further than Germany's system (according to Thom) that requires workers to be half of the board of directors. What it would mean is that all of the employees of a company would own an equal share and that the private companies themselves would be democratic entities. Workers would elect their own boards and CEOs. Salaries scales would be the result of democratic process within the companies themselves. AND all of these companies would operate in a free market system (with minimal regulation). The way that it would work is that for the first X years on the job, employees would be required to pay for their shares of the company. During this time they would be on probationary periods and have limited electoral rights. When they are fully vested, they earn dividends in addition to salary and have full electoral rights in the company.

Result = no more capitalists, no more dividend earners sitting on their butts leeching off of others, no more unequal labor relations, no need for unions, no need for labor laws (except perhaps antidiscriminatory laws), etc., etc.

You would literally wipe out about 80% of the "manipulation" as you call it within the labor relations in this country. You would naturally see a compression of wealth as no company of employees is going to agree to pay their CEOs 20 times more than their typical worker (unless they actually deserve it). There would be inherently a decrease in the need for even environmental regulations because the companies would be owned by employees who work locally - they don't want to pollute their own neighborhood. AND, you would see the government begin to be returned to the people because even "corporate" interests would be those of the workers (or at least a lot closer).

ah2
Joined:
Dec. 13, 2010 9:00 pm

Thank you, ah2. When I talk about how I would like to keep taxes to minimum even though I know that they will to be raised in a sustainable way, let me use an analogy. Suppose I go to a restaurant and choose what I eat. I can choose the small meal and pay for it with the cash in my wallet, or I can choose the large meal and pay for it with my credit card. What the government has been doing since I can remember is to "buy the large meal with its' credit card instead of buying the small meal with the money in its' wallet." I would like to minimize taxes, but I know that can't even be put on the table as long as the government is endlessly using its "credit card." For example, why is the military buying more and more aircraft carriers? Don't we have enough already? Isn't the cold war over? As long as the government is so much in debt, the purchasing of more aircraft carriers is outrageous!

micahjr34
Joined:
Feb. 7, 2011 3:57 pm

I would like to add to what I mean when I bring forth the issue of "necessary manipulation." I must first state that I dislike being controlled and told what to do. However, even though I dislike being controlled, I recognize that in an orderly and productive society there needs to be a certain amount of control, and that the mechanism of this control is what can be called "government." I would like to bring up how when people have been convicted of a crime, they can be put in prison. This is definitely control, because it is an attempt by the government to show people that certain behaviors and activities are not acceptable, with the consequences being that a person is put in a place where their freedom is severely curtailed. A point that I think is important is that I would like to minimize the amount of control that government or anything else has over me while at the same time acknowledging that the control needs to be there. I welcome critiques about this that are positive or negative. Thank you "Bonnie" for the critique of how what I say can be too vague.

micahjr34
Joined:
Feb. 7, 2011 3:57 pm

As I have written posts and have had the messages of posts directed towards me, I have realized that at the least my position on healthcare was contradictory. "Have a cake and eat it too."

My problem is that I sought to eliminate excessive government power while believing in a near "universal health care." Very contradictory goals. After some prioritizing, my position on the proper role in government healthcare is one of "volunteerism." This is very similar to the notion of a "public option." In my perspective, there is nothing morally or ethically wrong with a government playing a role in the lives of its citizens on the condition that those citizens have a right to participate or not participate in government programs at will, concerning medicare and social security (since social security does influence people's lives medically.) People can pay into it monthly or quarterly as they see fit to get back in the form of insurance and a pension when they retire. If they do not want to participate then they do not have to. Kudos with those who came up with is idea. I welcome input.

micahjr34
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Feb. 7, 2011 3:57 pm

In a different section of the Thom Hartmann site, I proposed an emphasis on capital gains taxes, sales taxes, and tariffs. However, I had also proposed a severe cut into income. Instead of drastically cutting the income tax I would like to propose a more moderate income tax, while putting more of an emphasis on capital gains, sales, and tariffs. THe problem of what I proposed earleir is that the income tax is very important. I realize now that a moderate, solid income tax is necessary to help fund medicare and social security, for example. I would like a tax system that is based less on coercion, but I realize that any such modifications must take into account that the poorest members of society already pay an income tax and that significantly raising sales taxes would hurt. A non-coercive tax system would be nice, but it must take into account the fact that heavy sales taxes would discourage commerce to a certain degree.

micahjr34
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Feb. 7, 2011 3:57 pm

Talking about tax policy to me is putting the cart before the horse in the sense that progressives can't even hold a majority in Congress from one election to the next. There is a lack of organization to try and bring about a fairer tax system and a more financially stable government.

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Robindell
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

Robindell, I've sort of abandoned what I was writing in this particular thread. Nowadays, my position on coercion is not to eliminate power, but rather to focus it into "checks and balances." I have realized that there must be consequences for negative stuff. If a person is spewing out all kinds of externalities unto third parties, then they will have to be forced to stop. To me, a negative consequence for negative action is not the same thing as threatening and intimidating someone into submission.

micahjr34
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Feb. 7, 2011 3:57 pm

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