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

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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

“A Judicial Jamboree” – Boris and the Supreme Court


“A Judicial Jamboree” – Boris and the Supreme Court

By Duncan Whitmore

Last week’s judgment of the Supreme Court (“Miller/Cherry1) that Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament was unlawful has been greeted as a “triumph” of democracy on the Remain side but, conversely, as an unwarranted judicial wading into politics on the Leave side – together with calls for the scrutiny of judicial appointments akin to what is seen with the US Supreme Court.

It will be argued here that, while undoubtedly significant, the court’s judgment to review the government’s decision for prorogation (and its disagreement with that decision) was not the most extraordinary aspect of the case. As we shall go on see in detail, the case is really an outcome of a continuing, decades-long attempt to squeeze historic, pre-democratic elements of Britain’s constitution into a democratic straitjacket.

What is astounding, on the other hand, is that the robustness and confidence of the decision represents a continuation of the same theme we identified in a previous essay on Brexit and the British Constitution – that the pro-Remain establishment, instead of simply cutting its losses and swallowing Brexit, is blind to the fact that its efforts to thwart the referendum result is jeopardising everything that legitimises (in the eye of the public) the sustenance of the British state. As Sean Gabb has said in his own post on the matter, “all that surprises me is that the Remainers are so committed to stopping Brexit that there is no part of the Constitution they are not prepared to feed into their political shredding machine.” Surely they must have realised the Supreme Court’s decision, delivered without a single dissenting voice among eleven justices in spite of convincing counterarguments, would brazenly and wantonly take a sledge hammer to yet another veneer of legitimacy over the state system that keeps them in power – the notion of an independent and apolitical judiciary? Read more

How to Win the Brexit Endgame: Further Advice to the Government


How to Win the Brexit Endgame:
Further Advice to the Government

Sean Gabb
(Published in
The Commentator on the 29th September 2019)

One of my books
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Earlier this month, I advised the Government to cut through our political deadlock by using the Civil Contingencies Act to declare a state of emergency, and then to use the powers available to call an election. The Government ignored my advice, choosing instead to press forward with a prorogation. Its enemies, however, have noticed my advice – or realised this for themselves – and are now worried in public about what the Government will do next. Keir Starmer, for example, fears the Civil Contingencies Act will be used to avoid the terms of the Surrender Act that forces the Prime Minister to ask for yet another extension to our membership of the European Union. Though I said a few days ago that I had no more to give, the Labour Party has inspired me to think of more advice. Here it goes. 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

Brexit: Check or Checkmate?


Brexit: Check or Checkmate?
Sean Gabb
(Published in The Commentator on the 24th September 2019)

One of my books
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I see no point in denouncing today’s judgment of the Supreme Court, which has ruled the prorogation of Parliament “unlawful.” Granted, this is not a court of law so much as a committee of political activists. Granted, its judgment goes against centuries of convention and judicial precedent that matters of high politics are not allowable subjects of litigation. But we are where we are. All that surprises me is that the Remainers are so committed to stopping Brexit that there is no part of the Constitution they are not prepared to feed into their political shredding machine. What I will do instead is to ask what the Government can reasonably do next.

My answer is that I am not sure. Three weeks ago, I suggested using the Civil Contingencies Act to dissolve Parliament and call a general election. After today, this is no longer an option. Three weeks ago, the dissolution would have been challenged in court. But the Remainers would have been arguing against an appeal to the people. Before any action could make its way to the Supreme Court, the campaign would already have begun. Try that now, and any court in England would apply today’s ruling in half an hour. There would be an injunction against the Government before the writs of election could be issued. Read more

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