Bemeficent Society, Chpt. 17

CHAPTER 17

Q & A REGARDING GOVERNMENT

September 14, 2016

” Thank you for giving us on the political committee the opportunity to present our version of what a government should look like in this day and age.

“And thank you very much for the questions you’ve turned in.  Just like the last time we asked for your comments, we got more than could be fit into today’s meeting.  So, we were forced into an editorial triage of sorts, thankfully bloodless, but difficult slogging nonetheless.  Some questions were substantially retained with no more than a bandage or two, some merged with others of a similar nature, some rather badly amputated without, hopefully, of losing their gist, and a number of perfectly good, intelligent queries reluctantly left, I’m afraid, unattended.  Regardless, every submission was considered and every one contributed, one way or another, to our presentation tonight.

“So, let’s get started.”

 

Q: I’m surprised with all your talk on government, you’ve made no mention of a constitution.  Doesn’t a nation need one?

A: It does indeed.  The committee decided to bypass the subject in its effort to focus exclusively on unique Newcapian institutions.  Since you raised the issue, we do have an observation that might be pertinent.   Doubtless, the framers of a new document would include the requisite essential freedoms of expression and movement, the protection of property and equal rights.  In addition, if their object was to fashion the most stable, most prosperous, and most contented state possible, they would do well to require that the basic wellbeing of the population be taken into account also on the assumption that, in the long run, the status of any organization can arise no higher than the status of its citizenry.  And in the committee’s eyes, that status must rest on the availability of basic sustenance, lodging, education, health care, and moral teachings.  Such an enlightened constitution, the committee believes, would also contain limits to the size of cities.  In the absence of such restrictions, a metropolitan area can grow into an unlivable megalopolis.

 

Q: I’ve followed the descriptions of your novel governmental components, but I’m still uncertain as to how they would interact.  What I’m looking for, I guess, is a vision of Newcapian governance overall.

A: Thank you for the question.  We’ll try to help.  Start with the local governments in a Newcapian world.  The fact is the committee saw no practical way to deviate from the existing range of forms you’re familiar with from city mayors down to village clerks.  What makes the Newcapian system different is that local government is the only one people have to submit to.  No county government, no state government, no national government.   The committee’s reasoning is that it’s more efficient, more flexible, and less burdensome to have one workable system—constantly undergoing improvement—than layers of overlapping, inconsistent, expensive bureaucracies.

Now le t’s look at the Adminent.  Its function is to optimize the performance of local governments by recommending whatever reforms it considers most urgently needed in each particular case.  Whereas the local governments are not obligated to enact their recommendations, it is generally in their interest to do so and collaboration is the norm.  In those exceptional cases in which a particular local government is bad to begin with and impervious to reforms, its citizens can exercise their right to pull stakes and move to a more amenable area.  In which case they could choose among an array of local governments each offering a different set of services, stressing different values, providing different employment opportunities, and demonstrating different cultures.

The committee recognizes that local governments would be obliged to cooperate with one another for any number of reasons.  Smaller communities unable to offer essential services would, of course, have to contract with alternative sources.  Communities would naturally partner with neighbors in such services as regional transportation systems, utilities, airports, hospitals, and numerous other facilities.  As important as these networks would be, the committee decided to allow them to knit together organically—that is to say without outside interference other than that embodied in the constitution.

As far as the Volitionment is concerned, its authority extends to all local governments.  Like the Adminent, its resolutions are all funneled through local governments.  Unlike the Adminent, however, its laws are compulsory.  The scope of any particular Volition measure is limited to only the governments named therein.  Hence a particular law might be imposed nationally, another within a defined region, another only to a particular type of business.  Let’s say a law prohibiting chewing gum in public spaces within local governments A, B, and C.  In those three jurisdictions, the local statutes would have to be amended to incorporate the new provision.  (As a practical matter, it might be preferable to have one Volition unit attend only to nationwide proposals, and another, operating under the same rules, be focused on only to restricted areas or groups.)

 

Q: Wouldn’t the Adminent’s balkanized structure open the door to a number of regional disputes?  What if, for example, a much-needed infrastructure improvement—a bridge, highway interchange, dam, etc.—straddled more than one district and the neighboring local governments so disagreed as to the viability of the project that their dispute resulted in a stalemate and the project put on hold.

A: In cases such as these, Adminent teams would normally be recruited to take over the negotiations because of their neutral outlook—having no skin in the game, as it were.  Conferring regularly among themselves and their respective politicos, the teams would arrive at a compromise that was generally acceptable to all sides.  Aiding this peaceable resolution would be the fear on both sides that some activist would utilize the Volitionment to enforce a settlement even less palatable than the Adminent’s compromise on the table.

 

Q: Not a question.  A complaint.  I object to your characterization of democracy as a “bad meme.”  Seems to me it served this country pretty well for over two centuries.  I’ll grant it’s not perfect but, like Winston Churchill said, “…democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

A: Acknowledging the contribution that democracy has made in the past, the committee believes that, in its present form, it is not serving the country very well at the present.  Think how many issues there are on which the majority of Americans agree but our politicized government seems powerless to enact.  Just a few examples: our impossibly complicated income tax system, our neglected infrastructure, our dysfunctional educational system, our inexcusable class inequity, our bloated government, and so on.  Churchill’s comment can be cited either to obfuscate people’ dissatisfaction or as a desperate plea that something be done to rectify an unacceptable situation.  In the opinion of the political committee, the later interpretation comes closer to the mark.

 

Q: I have a different complaint.  The committees’ frequent references to Gad suggest that Newcapia’s basic philosophy rests on Gad’s divine inspiration.  Depend on Gad, you say, and she will provide a steady hand on the tiller.  Nirvana is just over the horizon.  In my opinion, that’s a pretty shaky foundation to build a whole government on.  Naïve, I’d call it?  And, as far as I’m concerned, it throws the committees’ entire thesis into a cocked hat.  How do you know where in the hell the Gad, you talk about, will take you?  The fact is nobody has the foggiest notion what’s on her mind because, like every other supreme being, she keeps her mouth shut.  The reality is you’re totally dependent on some manipulative, probably crooked, human intercessors to interpret her wishes.  Which you can count on boiling down to handing her spokesmen money so a fraction of which might filter down to the unfortunate.

A:  You’ve got the wrong supreme being.  Nature, alias Gad, is no ordinary supreme being.  She’s a real, non-mystical entity as opposed to all the rest of the bunch.  She’s not just “all knowing,” she’s all there is to know.  And the intercessors you’re worried about aren’t just any intercessors either.  They’re scientists who have a pretty good handle on Gad’s thinking and can be counted on to relay it to the rest of us honestly.

Glad you raised the point, though.  We’ll cover it more completely at the next Society meeting.  Next question?

 

Q: The Adminent’s objectives seem very altruistic.  Lots of good people running around doing good things.  The question I have is ‘who pays for it?’

A: The Adminent’s expenses are met by an estimated eight percent charge against general revenues which are raised by Newcapia’s tax on personal wealth.  Since the amount of the disbursement is calculated only once a year and the Adminent has no other source of money, it is incumbent upon the Adminent’s comptroller to handle the funding conservatively.  In this connection it should be noted that, in all is endeavors, Newcapia’s contented, educated population largely governed itself at a fraction of the cost for governmental bureaucracy and law enforcement required by existing systems.

 

Q: Eight percent amounts to a lot of money.  Just as I thought.  Another big government socialized boondoggle.

A: The ‘big government’ description is hardly appropriate.  The political committee has shrunk Newcapia’s government down to a fraction of its current size.  And your allusion to socialism misses the mark as well.  The Adminent groups are not directed by any central authority nor guided by some outdated, disproven political theory.

 

Q:  All right, my wording was unfortunate.  But it’s still a government financed operation run by do-gooders.  Like I said, a ‘boondoggle.’ Another example of government getting in the way of the free market.

A:  The committee would question that characterization too.  The political committee has good reason to believe that a society composed of unguided freely-moving, capitalistic units, is—in the hands of human beings at any rate—inherently unstable.  Over time, special interests become more entrenched, political factions grow more extreme, a class society evolves, and an unprotected environment is abused.

The analogy the political committee utilizes is that of a complex mechanical system that, no matter how well engineered, needs lubrication and periodic maintenance.  And, in our opinion, so does a sophisticated, economic system.  The Adminent provides that support at a cost, we believe, well worth paying.

 

Q: The previous questionnaire was worried about the Adminent doing too much.  I’m worried about it doing too little.  As I understand it, the Adminent teams are given such broad responsibilities that I would worry about their frittering away their time and end up doing nothing.

A: You raise a justifiable concern.  Bear in mind, however, that the circumstances in which they are placed are so varied that specificity as to goals is impossible as are productivity quotas, artificial incentives, and the like.  Instead the Adminent leaders select two or three projects that can have genuine impact on the lives of local population.  They then leave the final choice up to the team and count on it to produce measurable results for their chosen project.  In the last analysis, the work ethic of the Adminent worker is based on the conviction they are all engaged in a common effort to advance the common good and the   camaraderie that arises from such efforts.

As far as the morale of the division leaders is concerned, every one of them is conscious that he will be in office only two years—enough time to enjoy it but probably not enough time to make harboring grudges worth the effort.  In sum the position of division head is sought after more for the satisfaction it offers than for its power or remuneration—division heads earning only a modest 30% more than senior agents.  A second incentive is that, from a purely self-interest standpoint, a division head is likely to help out a neighbor in time of need knowing that changed circumstances might well make him the supplicant.  Such informal collaboration tends to improve the teams’ overall performance.

Q: Could deleterious bills make it through the Volitionment process?  Isn’t there the possibility it could be abused by either organized elitist or populist groups?  Even the worst bills benefit some group or another that will do its best to prolong the measure’s life.  And, needless to add, an accumulation of such deadwood—think farm subsidies and sugar commodity support—can weigh a society down.

A: The short answer is ‘yes.’ The political committee acknowledges that some disadvantageous measures will make it through the validation process.  Whereas all but a few Judicial Boards are dutiful and conscientious, a few may be negligent on occasion and certainly none are clairvoyant.

On the other side of the coin, however, there are disinterested non-profit groups who keep the number of bad laws to a minimum.  Bills that are obviously inimical to society’s wellbeing soon come to the attention of such activists and, in short order, new laws are enacted to supplant the offending statutes.  Some bills may appear attractive on paper and only exhibit their true colors when put into practice.  Bills that adversely affect only a narrow business sector and/or few people, take longer to be identified and addressed, but these too are eventually dealt with.  Other faulty bills come to public attention only when their feedback system are triggered and the press sounds an alert.  And even more stealthily, some bad laws linger unnoticed for years because of the strenuous efforts by those benefiting from their seemingly innocuous clauses.  The point is that however bad laws slip through, the Volitionment, it has the means to deal with them.  by eliminating corruptible middlemen and restoring lawmaking directly into the hands of the public,

Thus, through repeated cycles of creative destruction and natural selection, the Volitionment is designed to create an ever improved statutory system—evolution at work reshaping humanity’s ‘artificial’ organizations just as it does for nature’s organisms.

 

Q: If I understood your presentation of Newcapia’s law enforcement correctly, the police division is the only one armed and is subject to no outside controls—it superintendent free to do whatever he likes without having to answer to anyone.  That strikes me as an open invitation to mayhem including, obviously, a military takeover.

A: If you were a resident of Newcapia you might have a number of worries, but a military takeover would not be among them.  To begin with, Newcapia’s highly disbursed governmental segments would not lend themselves to such an nefarious attempt.  The only administrative authority would be, after all, in the hands of thousands of local authorities who answered to no centralized authority.  would all have to be coerced into following the new regime.  Even if the police managed to subjugate such a group, the question would surely arise as to what was the point in their doing so.  Weighing the time and resources expended against any conceivable advantage that might be gained would come up short.

Our advice should you plan to vacation in Newcapia, take a book, not a gun.

 

Q: I have a hard time imaging that, in the absence of any authoritative head, law enforcements four divisions could work together smoothly.  Surely disputes would arise as to which division did what for how much money, etc.  Seems to me to be a hopeless mess.

A: The answer, we’re afraid is too long-winded to fit into the remainder of tonight’s meeting.  It will however, be revealed at our next meeting.  Hope to see you there.

 

 

 

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