Last post I discussed Wolff's book In Defense of Anarchism and promised to talk about a potential way out of his assertion that no practical government can have moral legitimacy. Now I'm following through on that promise. So Wolff puts forth that Unanimous Direct Democracy can have authority without undermining personal moral autonomy. Within that section, he points out that even arbitration can be codified within such a system. Those two points are the basis for my idea of a practical form of governance by practical direct democracy. I need a catchy term for this form of government. Here are the ingredients I think we need to make this work.
1. Unanimous passage of items in a bill of rights.
2. Unanimous passage of a process for ascertaining the best ways to guarantee these rights.
It seems to me that the vast majority of politics isn't about the right thing to do, it's about the right way to do it. Democrats and Republicans alike agree that people have a right to life, for instance, and that the taking of a life without due process and control is unacceptable, they disagree on the best way of ensuring that life taking is minimized. In our government, there is no mechanism for finding the best way, testing enacted laws to verify they are in fact improving the situation, or rigorously studying the impact of our legal strategies at all.
I think that a large and diverse group of people could agree upon a significant number of fundamental rights if asked to consider merely the right thing without concern for its implications or practical significance.
Then comes the tricky part. This group of people would need to agree on a mechanism for developing procedures to protect the rights they have codified. This is akin to an arbitration process. Personally, I would advocate the scientific method. Allow people to propose mechanisms for enhancing protections of the codified rights. Require rigor in these proposals. In other words, place the burden on the bill writer to demonstrate that the bill does not contradict existing rights, and has a plausible mechanism for enhancing the support or protection of one of those rights, and provides metrics by which the impact of the bill could be measured. Select several proposals at random, and apply them to test groups determined in an appropriately random and statistically rigorous manner. If the law is found to violate existing rights by some unintended consequence it is immediately abolished. If, after an appropriate trial period, the law is found not to significantly improve the metric(s) it provided, it is abolished. If it succeeds in improving its metrics appropriately, its scope is progressively expanded, its impacts reverified, and its consistency with the bill of rights reevaluated, until such time as it is implemented nationwide. Following nationwide implementation, bills are periodically reviewed for consistency with the bill of rights (though their efficacy is no longer tested as there is no control population).
I think that a large number of people could agree to this strategy or one like it, and I think that such a governance strategy would create a government capable of developing a recognizable and appropriately far reaching legal code without undermining the moral autonomy of the population. Let's call it a Constitutional Anarchy. This is my current best effort with regards to an ideal form of governance, and it is basically going to be the yardstick by which I judge ongoing legal and political discussions in the US.
Here are the questions I would ask of any law or political policy.
1. Does it attempt to protect or enhance a universally acknowledged right? (answer should be yes)
2. Does it impede any universally acknowledged rights? (answer should be no)
3. Does it provide rigorous support for its chosen strategy? (answer should be yes)
4. Does it provide for the measurement of its impact, and repeal if shown to be ineffective? (answer should be yes)
I think those are in order of importance, but I'd say that giving the wrong answer to any of 1-3 should be a deal breaker.