Author Archives: Neil Lock

Ik sta achter de boeren

Recently, Dutch farmers have – rightly – started protesting against demands of “their” government that they cull their herds of cattle and pigs in order to comply with some idiot EU/UN rule about limiting emissions of ammonia and nitrogen oxides.

Now, isn’t government supposed to be for the benefit of the governed? All the governed? So, what benefit is there to ordinary Dutch people from these limits? None at all, I’d say. Where is the science which, objectively and without political bias, quantifies the bad (or good) effects of these emissions? And what is the loss to ordinary Dutch people (and the rest of us) if their supposedly “liberal” government is allowed to pursue these policies? Biefstuk, ossehaas, spek… I don’t need to go on. Read more

On How to Pay for Convivial Governance

This is the last of four essays which, taken together, outline my proposed system of minimal governance, called convivial governance. Today, it’s time to ask the thorny question: how should all this be paid for? Again, while I aim to make the general principles of how convivial governance should be paid for as clear as I can, the details may end up being very different from what I have envisaged.

Payment for protection

How to pay for government has been an issue for centuries. John Locke, in his Second Treatise of Government, wrote: “It is true governments cannot be supported without great charge, and it is fit everyone who enjoys his share of the protection should pay out of his estate his proportion for the maintenance of it.”

From which, I deduce two things about Locke’s view on this matter. First, an individual’s payment must be his proportion of the total. Second, it must come out of his estate. That is, from his wealth, not from his income, or from a cut on transactions he makes. What I think Locke is saying is that an individual’s payment for the “protection” functions of government should be in direct proportion to his wealth. That is similar to what happens with home buildings insurance, where (assuming the risk is constant) the price is in proportion to the amount insured for. And it seems very reasonable indeed, to me at least.

So, the amount each individual must pay each year for the “protection” elements of convivial governance ought to be a (small) percentage of the individual’s total wealth. Once this is achieved, to support these functions there will be no need for any taxes on income, or on transactions, or on anything else. Read more

On the Institutions of Convivial Governance

This is the third of four essays outlining my system of minimal governance, which I call convivial governance. Today, I’m going to take a look at some of the institutions, which I think are likely to make up convivial governance.

This essay will be far more speculative than my norm. This is because what I am describing will be a bottom-up system, growing organically and adapting, as all organisms do. I believe that I have correctly diagnosed many of the reasons for the failure of current political systems, which is leading to the need for this new approach. So, it’s likely that I will be along the right lines in many of my suggestions; but the details may turn out to be very different.

The structure of convivial governance

Convivial governance will be a bottom-up system. It will focus on the individual, and on small communities of people. It will be networked; closer in concept and structure to the Internet than to a top-down hierarchy. Thus, convivial governance will be organized to serve a network of individuals and small communities.

I foresee, most likely, just two levels of community. One, sufficiently small that those in the community can know each other personally. The other, sufficiently large to be viable as an economic unit in a free market; but not significantly larger. Only when absolutely necessary will these communities make alliances on a larger scale. Read more

On the Principles of Convivial Governance

This is the second in a set of four essays outlining my system of minimal governance, which I call convivial governance. Today, I’ll discuss the four fundamental principles, on which it is based: Equality (moral equality), Justice (common sense justice), Rights and Freedom. And I’ll introduce what I call the Convivial Code. That is, the core list of ethical principles, which constitute the rules of convivial conduct.

I’ll also describe the “agreement to vary,” which allows societies and individuals, by mutual agreement, to add to or to deviate from the Convivial Code in their dealings with each other. And I’ll ask: From where will convivial governance, and the Convivial Code which represents its ethical core, get their authority and their right to claim obedience? Read more

On Convivial Governance

Over the last two years, I’ve written twenty-six essays on political and ethical philosophy, government, and the ills of the political system under which we suffer today. The first twelve covered the philosophy, with side trips into science and environmentalism. The second group of seven were mainly about economic matters; though I did also discuss property and borders. The third group of seven led towards my diagnosis of the problems we face.

I’m just about done with the diagnosis. So today, I’ll embark on my search for Cure.

This essay is the first of a set of four, in which I aim to outline a new system of minimal or, as some say, “minarchist” governance. I call this convivial governance. This system will be bottom-up and de-politicized. That is: First, it will focus on the individual, and on small communities. And second, it will not allow any political ideology or agenda to be imposed on any of the governed against their wills.

In this, the first of the set, I’ll give an overview of my system. I’ll look at its aims, its functions, and its general design. The second essay will address the ethical principles on which it will be based. These are: First, moral equality, and the Convivial Code which encapsulates it. Second, common sense justice. Third, human rights. And fourth, maximum freedom for every individual. The third essay will sketch out some of the institutions which might implement convivial governance. And the fourth will discuss the thorny matter of how it should be paid for. After that, I’ll fill in some of the remaining gaps in a number of follow-up essays.

I’m sure that many people will find my ideas crazy, unworkable or both. But in that case, it’s up to them to tell me where and why I’m wrong, and to suggest better solutions if they can. Read more

The War on Cars – Video

Last month, I gave a talk to the Libertarian Alliance in London about the “war on cars” that successive UK governments have been conducting against us for decades now. The talk was very wide-ranging, covering:

  1. The green movement in general, and the involvement of the United Nations and the UK government in it.
  2. The “global warming” scare, and the (long and rather sordid) backstory to it.
  3. The “air pollution” scare that is now being used as an excuse to intensify the war on our cars, and the (just as long, and almost as sordid) backstory to it.

This is one of my very rare appearances on video (a good thing they’re rare! I hear some of you saying). The link is here:

The talk is quite long (55 minutes) and rather detailed, but I think I got over many important points, and made people chuckle a few times on the way!

The proper functions of governance

I haven’t been writing much new “serious” stuff lately. This is mainly because I’ve been going over what I’ve written in the last couple of years, trying to fix some inconsistencies and clarify things that didn’t come over quite right. In the process, I’ve written six new, or substantially revised, sections. I’ll try to publish them over the next week or so. Here’s the first.

* * *

The first step towards solving the political problems we face today, I think, must be to understand what the valid functions of government (or, as I prefer to call it, governance) actually are. In my view, proper governance has a total of six functions; three principal and three subsidiary.

The first function of governance is to maintain peace. This includes the defence of the governed against external attack or internal violence.

The second function of governance is to deliver justice. This function includes the just resolution of disputes. Justice, as I put forward earlier, is the condition in which every individual, over the long term, in the round and as far as practicable, is treated as he or she treats others. And governance must be fair, objective and meticulous in all its decisions.

The third function of governance is defence of the rights of those who respect others’ rights. Those rights, as I discussed earlier, include fundamental rights like life, property and privacy; and rights of non-impedance, such as freedom of speech, religion and association.

All these three principal functions of governance can be seen as different aspects of a single whole. Namely, the delivery of peace and justice to all individuals.

There are further functions of governance which, while not as important as the first three, are nevertheless necessities. The fourth is co-ordination of the building of infrastructure. This is needed because, although infrastructure must be created and maintained at the local level, some degree of co-ordination is required to ensure that the infrastructure forms a coherent whole. For example, that a new road doesn’t suddenly dead-end at some arbitrary community border. But these functions must always be delivered and paid for in a way that is just towards every individual.

The fifth function is the maintenance of good relations with other, friendly communities.

The sixth and final function of governance is quality control of itself. It must maintain a constant ethical watch on the actions of governance as a whole, and of the individuals who constitute it. It must assure that the functions of governance are being performed as they should be. That those whose job is to maintain peace are indeed doing so to the best of their abilities. That the justice system is, and remains, just, objective and fair to everyone. That no-one in governance violates the rights of innocent people. That any decisions governance needs to make on behalf of those under it are made objectively, fairly, and taking into account the costs and benefits to every individual or group. And that governance – including the quality assurance function! – keeps meticulous and publicly accessible audit trails of all it does, and of the reasons behind every decision it makes.

In my view, these six are the valid functions, and the only valid functions, of governance. It is not a function of governance to impose any particular political or religious ideology. It is not a function of governance to try to cure perceived social ills. It is not a function of governance to pick winners and losers, or to re-distribute wealth from one group of people to another. And it is not a function of governance to provide education, or insurance, or any other good or service which can be effectively provided by individuals and groups in the free market.

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