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Government: Who Needs It?
Posted: 11 January 2007 05:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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So, you agree then, that coercive institutions like the State are fundamentally destructive, because they give rise to circumstances that permit the aggressive elements of man’s nature to express themselves, is that correct?

Nope! I believe that coercive institutions can provide an opportunity for the expression of these characteristics, but so can most forms of human interactions (husbands beat wives in the family, priests molest children in the church, warlords and gangs rape pillage and burn in the absence of government, etc.). The question is not whether governments do harm, it is whether they do more harm than good and whether there is a better alternative. I have come to believe that governments can be designed and maintained so that they do more good than harm and that they are better than the alternatives on offer, so they are not “fundamentally” destructive.

I am curious about the details of what you suggest as an alternative. I have never been able to envision clearly what a modern, large, technologically and economically complex anarchy would look like. How would the multifold economic and social interactions be carried out in the absence of a rule structure enforced by some agency akin to a government? Perhaps you are right and I simply lack the imagination to see a way out of “state addiction,” but every society I can think of which has endured the complete collapse of its coercive government has endured a subsequent collapse of all its other social and economic institutions and a widespread surge in misery among the populace (the Roman Empire comes to mind, though a better hbistorian than I could probably find better examples). What does a society with no government look like?

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Posted: 11 January 2007 06:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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Human Nature

Brennon: As I have stated elsewhere in this forum on the subject of “human nature,” I believe the evidence instead suggests quite strongly that without the restraints imposed by a government with coercive powers, the strong would exploit the weak and the quality of life for all but a very few would be much poorer than obtains in a system such as ours. I don’t see humans as primarily rational, altruistic, cooperative, compassionate, tolerant, or any of the qualities that would have to dominate our behavior for an ungoverned population to thrive.

Here I dissagree with you Brennon.  I do not see human nature as either “primarily rational, altrusitic, cooperative, compassionate, etc. either, BECAUSE I do not think there is one real human nature.  I think we can be all those things, and we can also be irrational, selfish, competitive, cold, etc.  I think humans can be lots of these things and many more.  BUT, it seems that humans under certain conditions tend to be more of one or the other. 

I think those conditions are not just natural ones, but man-made ones.  A severe natural scarcity of food can make some of us the latter, but natural/man-made disasters - earthquakes, 911 - to the people living thru it, can bring out the former.  I happen to also think that when people get what they need mentally, spiritually and physically (food, shelter, freedom, opportunity, sex, etc), they will tend to be more like the former. 

So how do we get people what they NATURALLY need?  We must find ways to share this world in peace to do this. We must elimanate those things which bring out the latter qualities (which may be more of a survival way of being than anything else), and create those conditions which bring out the healthier human in us all.  I agree with Greg, that we need to get rid of heirarchy, dominance, unequal distribution of resources, etc… We must get rid of the state and capitalism and all forms of authortarianism.

...the tendancy of a rational secular humanist to prefer a Keynesian/New Deal economic system with a representative/democratic political structure versus a laissez faire free market system and libertarian or anarchist political structure ultimately boil down to whether one holds a view of human behavior that looks like that of Hobbes or that of Rousseau.

I think humanists do perfer Keynesian/New Deal system and rep. dem. over free-market captialism or Right-Libertarianism.. but all these systems have Hobbesian overtones because they all favor the “fallen man” (original sin) notion of what kind of creatures we are.  Hobbes (and Rousseau) were wrong.  What we need is a Left-Libertarianism.. and an inclusive democracy.

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Posted: 11 January 2007 06:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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crime with out government?

Brennon: husbands beat wives in the family, priests molest children in the church, warlords and gangs rape pillage and burn in the absence of government, etc.)

I think if you examine the whys behind these seemingly seperate matters, you may find they are all reactions to the “system” - which includes the state and economy and - often - conservative or any Hobbesian-informed politic.  Outside of socio or psycho paths and a few others, people get unheathly for environmental reasons.

What does a society with no government look like?


1) www.inclusivedemocracy.org

2) www.zmag.org/parecon/indexnew.htm

3)  

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Posted: 11 January 2007 06:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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[quote author=“mckenzievmd”]coercive institutions can provide an opportunity for the expression of these characteristics, but so can most forms of human interactions (husbands beat wives in the family, priests molest children in the church, warlords and gangs rape pillage and burn in the absence of government, etc.).

Perhaps a better way to express this, might be to say that institutions within which arbitrarily enforced disparities of power exist? That would include automatically, such things as the State, and the Church, but also the family, and things like violent gangs.

[quote author=“mckenzievmd”]The question is not whether governments do harm, it is whether they do more harm than good and whether there is a better alternative… I am curious about the details of what you suggest as an alternative. I have never been able to envision clearly what a modern, large, technologically and economically complex anarchy would look like. How would the multifold economic and social interactions be carried out in the absence of a rule structure enforced by some agency akin to a government?

Well, to be honest, I haven’t really come here armed with a “package” to sell. I am simply trying to pick apart our basic assumptions about government (i.e., the State), in an effort to determine whether it actually is the best way to arrange society.

However, I do have some ideas. For example, Barry’s notion (from another thread, I think), about how competitiveness may have arisen out of capitalism, rather than capitalism having arisen out of competitiveness, is my inspiration for this idea:

The institutions you mentioned above, all rely on arbitrary disparities of power (“power”, meaning the capacity to coerce human actions by threat of force), and they encourage the aggressive elements of human nature, in a self-reciprocating way that confuses us into thinking they are necessary.

So, suppose we could engineer an institution that relied primarily on an appeal to the cooperative, rather than the coercive, elements of our nature: our innate desire to satisfy self-interest, coupled with the necessity for negotiation, trade, and collaboration?

Again, once the system (and it’s really not a “system”, in the strictest sense) got “up and running”, it’s own self-reciprocating characteristics would make it appear to us that it was indispensable to civil society.

In a nutshell, we should seek to organize society in a way that encourages the collaborative, rather than the coercive elements of our nature, and the best way to do that, is through decentralized institutions (an oxymoron, I know). How would that look in practical reality? What sort of real businesses, schools, communities, and social interactions would constitute this new society? Well, I’m no Karl Marx. Trying to predict such a thing to that level of specificity would be just a little arrogant. But, one thing I think we could predict successfully, is that there would be far less violence than we see now, and far more general happiness in the individuals of that society.

I am familiar with one very interesting proposal, over at Lew Rockwell (  ). It’s called a “Dispute Resolution Organization”, and essentially, it wouldn’t be a “government”, but would be many insurance-company-like entities, that would offer on a voluntary basis, many of the same kinds of services that governments forcibly require us to take from them now. This proposal has built into it, the very same sort of positive appeal (and rejection of the negative appeal) that I am talking about here. What do you think?

[quote author=“mckenzievmd”]Perhaps you are right and I simply lack the imagination to see a way out of “state addiction,” but every society I can think of which has endured the complete collapse of its coercive government has endured a subsequent collapse of all its other social and economic institutions and a widespread surge in misery among the populace (the Roman Empire comes to mind, though a better historian than I could probably find better examples). What does a society with no government look like?

You’re correct that there have been very, very few instances of successful stateless societies throughout history. But, I’m not sure that should be viewed as valid evidence against the idea. Similar arguments were levied against the founders of the original American government, for example - and, while I think the Anti-Federalists got it right in the long run, Madison and Jefferson did show that federalism could work in the short run. What do you think?

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Posted: 11 January 2007 06:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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Re: government and society

[quote author=“Barry”]a proposal for an inclusive democracy, whose main characteristic is the equal distribution of political and economic power among all citizens

Now I’m really curious! Could you explain how Fotopoulos’ proposal accomplishes these things, without the institution of coercive agencies?

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Posted: 11 January 2007 07:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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[quote author=“mckenzievmd”] The libertarians I know (and I have had this discussion with many since my wife is one and worked for the Ludwig von Mises Institute and Lew Rockwell at one time) seem in general to believe that the characteristics people would exhibit in the absence of some formal governmental instituion with coercive power to regulate behavior would be far more cooperative and rational than not. I see no evidence in history, psychology, or the modern world for this.

Then I have have to say it seems to me you are not looking very carefully. It seems pretty self evident that almost all human interaction and group activity has been and continues to be conducted by individuals and small NGO groups without government intervention. I would actually wager that to honest humans…most humans…government throughout history and to present remains a hurtle to their individual progress and even to the progress of a groups with a unifying interest.

Though I am no primate expert (or hitorical or political for that matter)  may well be born out by the social interactions of our nearest simian relatives.

The very few things that government can do better or just more efficiently than individuals and small adhoc groups revolve mostly around violence.

Or as Tom Robbins aptly said in his book “Skinny Legs and All”

It is futile to work for political solutions to humanity’s problems because humanity’s problems are not political. Political problems do exist, all right, but they are entirely secondary. The primary problems are philosophical and until the philosophical problems are solved the political problems will have to be solved over and over again. The phrase “vicious circle” was coined to describe the ephemeral effectiveness of almost all political activity.

For the ethical political action is seductive because it seems to offer the possibility that one could improve society, make things better, without going through the personal ordeal of rearranging one’s perceptions and transforming one’s self. For the unconscionable, political reactivism is seductive because it seems to protect one’s holdings and legitimize one’s greed. But both sides are gazing through a kerchief of illusion.

The monkey wrench in the progressive machinery of primate evolution is the propensity of the primate band to take its political leaders, its dominant males, too seriously. Of benefit to the band only when it is actively threatened by predators, the dominant male (or political boss) is almost wholly self-serving and is naturally dedicated not to liberation but to control. Behind his chest-banging and fang display, he is largely a joke and can be kept in his place (his place being a necessary evil) by disrespect and laughter. If, for example, when Hitler stood up to rant in the beer halls of Munich, the good drinkers had taken him more lightly, had they, instead of buying his act, snickered and hooted and pelted him with sausage skins, the Holocaust might have been avoided.

Of course as long as there are willing followers there will be exploitive leaders. And there will be willing followers until humanity reaches that philosophical plateau where it recognizes that its great mission in life has nothing to do with any struggle between classes, races, nations or ideologies, but is, rather, a personal quest to enlarge the soul, liberate the spirit, and light up the brain. On that quest politics is simply a roadblock of stentorian baboons.

And please don’t get all Whupass about the terms soul and spirit I suspect they are meant as place holders for the qualities of abstract experience we also call self.

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Posted: 12 January 2007 12:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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[quote author=“mckenzievmd”]

My confusion surrounds the almost mystical assertion that individuals (or trees) take on a fundamental nature different from their own in the presence of other humans.

jonthompson,

I guess I may have misinterpreted your original post, because I would certainly agree that the fundamental nature of humans (or trees) is not changed by participation in government (or a forest). I would argue that certain characteristics, physical for both examples and behavioral for humans, emerge only in the course of such participation. Trees and humans have both evolved to live in groups, and our fundamnetal nature (a slippery concept, I admit) has been selected by this environmental pressure as much as any other. So to some extent what we are includes the characteristics that emerge in such group settings, but these characteristics might remain forever unexpressed without the settinng to elicit them.

What I was primarily responding to in your first post was the assertion that,

...people exist in reality, yet governments do not….[government is]a human construct devoid of any meaning in empirical analysis…

I think governments and forests have characteristics as wholes which the constituent parts do not exhibit, and the constituents are meaningfully (though perhaps not fundamentally) altered by participation in the whole, so in this sense forests and governments have a real existence which can be analyzed empirically. That’s really all I was getting at.

Right, I think we are on the same page. To address another important issue brought up here regarding humanity and the analysis of organized structures is that their decomposition down to the cellular level is unnecessary. We only need to go far enough to the level of individual consciousness because that is where ‘we’ are. In this sense, the forest analogy is a bad one. Likewise, ascribing consciousness or physical validity to an organized structure is absurd. For descriptive purposes, we can call something a ‘soccer team’. If we want to call this soccer team something else (a book club) it doesn’t alter their characteristics in material reality. We simply produce accurate or inaccurate labels to the activity of the interactions between the participants. Of course, this information doesn’t provide us with what they should do - it only describes their actions.

Ascribing separate moral codes for the participants for organizations (family, government, church - also slippery concepts) based on these labels I believe to be the root of all evil. Arguing the effects of these organizations on society is entirely another matter.

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Posted: 12 January 2007 02:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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Excellent clarification on the question of individuals and groups.

However, I was hoping you could clarify this quoted comment: [quote author=“jonthompson”]Ascribing separate moral codes for the participants [of] organizations (family, government, church - also slippery concepts) based on these labels I believe to be the root of all evil. Arguing the effects of these organizations on society is entirely another matter.

Could you explain why, for example, individuals identified with the group “government” and individuals identified with the group “citizen” should not be judged by separate moral codes? Also, could you explain the (apparently) higher-level principle (or moral code?) that led you to that conclusion?

Thanks!

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Posted: 12 January 2007 03:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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Re: crime with out government?

[quote author=“Barry”]

What does a society with no government look like?


1) www.inclusivedemocracy.org

2) www.zmag.org/parecon/indexnew.htm

3)  

Is this it, Barry?

[quote author=“wikipedia”]The values on which parpolity is based are freedom, self-management, justice, solidarity and tolerance. The goal, according to Shalom, is to create a political system that will allow people to participate, as much as possible in a face to face manner. The proposed decision-making principle is that every person should have say in a decision proportionate to the degree to which she or he is affected by that decision.

This reminds me of the nonsense I had to listen to while growing up in Czechoslovakia. “Every person should have say in a decision”? This is simply stupid. Stupid and quiet dangerous actually.

P.S.:
“The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like cattle, dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not harm nor destroy in all My holy mountain, says God.”
(Isaiah 65:25)
:wink:

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Posted: 12 January 2007 04:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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Re: crime with out government?

[quote author=“George Benedik”]
[quote author=“wikipedia”]The values on which parpolity is based are freedom, self-management, justice, solidarity and tolerance. The goal, according to Shalom, is to create a political system that will allow people to participate, as much as possible in a face to face manner. The proposed decision-making principle is that every person should have say in a decision proportionate to the degree to which she or he is affected by that decision.

This reminds me of the nonsense I had to listen to while growing up in Czechoslovakia. “Every person should have say in a decision”? This is simply stupid. Stupid and quiet dangerous actually.

If you let the common people have a say, the next thing you know, they’ll start questioning the legitimacy of the government itself!

dominick

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Posted: 12 January 2007 05:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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I do not see human nature as either “primarily rational, altrusitic, cooperative, compassionate…I think we can be all those things, and we can also be irrational, selfish, competitive, cold, etc. I think humans can be lots of these things and many more. BUT, it seems that humans under certain conditions tend to be more of one or the other.

I think those conditions are not just natural ones, but man-made ones. A severe natural scarcity of food can make some of us the latter, but natural/man-made disasters - earthquakes, 911 - to the people living thru it, can bring out the former. I happen to also think that when people get what they need mentally, spiritually and physically (food, shelter, freedom, opportunity, sex, etc), they will tend to be more like the former.

So how do we get people what they NATURALLY need? We must find ways to share this world in peace to do this. We must elimanate those things which bring out the latter qualities (which may be more of a survival way of being than anything else), and create those conditions which bring out the healthier human in us all. I agree with Greg, that we need to get rid of heirarchy, dominance, unequal distribution of resources, etc… We must get rid of the state and capitalism and all forms of authortarianism.

Barry,
You got me right up to the part in bold. I just don’t see doin this as achieving the goals above. Do institutions create the bad behavior or does the bad behavior corrupt and impede the appropriate functioning of institutions? I suspect you would argue the former and I the latter.

Barrym/gmgauthi,

mckenzievmd wrote:
coercive institutions can provide an opportunity for the expression of these characteristics, but so can most forms of human interactions (husbands beat wives in the family, priests molest children in the church, warlords and gangs rape pillage and burn in the absence of government, etc.). 
Perhaps a better way to express this, might be to say that institutions within which arbitrarily enforced disparities of power exist? That would include automatically, such things as the State, and the Church, but also the family, and things like violent gangs.

Quote:
Brennon: husbands beat wives in the family, priests molest children in the church, warlords and gangs rape pillage and burn in the absence of government, etc.)


I think if you examine the whys behind these seemingly seperate matters, you may find they are all reactions to the “system” - which includes the state and economy and - often - conservative or any Hobbesian-informed politic.

Now it sounds like you are so convinced, a priori, that government is the reason people act badly against one another that you have to reclassify almost any form of human organization (family, church, street gang) as “government” in some sense to explain bad things people do (gmgauthi), or at least assume that the context of a capitalist economy and statist political system reach into these smaller institutions and generate the behavior (Barry). I think this is a stretch. Any interaction between two people is likely to involve disparities in power of some sort (husbands are stronger than wives physically, clergy are perceived as having some greater moral authority or access to the deity, etc). My argument is that the inclination to exploit these power disparities is fundamental to human behavior, and social institutions, such as governments, do more to control this inclination than to encourage it.

cgallaga,

I did actually do a graduate degree in primatology, and studied chimpanzees in particular, and I don’t see much support for the notion that they illustrate how humans could function for the benefit of all without harmful compeition or dominance hierarchies in the absence of government. Sure, the pendulum has swung from the predominant research focus being on male aggression and competition (Schaller, Wrangham) to studying the elements of other great ape group behavior that involve cooperation, empathy, etc (De Waal and such). But part of this is historical (more women entered the field and female behavir became more of a research focus, and the natural tendancy of one generation to challenge the preconceptions of the previous generation).  And part of it involves the political agenda and preconceptions of the researchers, choosing ways of organizing their research to illustrate specific qualities of primate behavior. I think, on balance you’ll find that Barry is right in that all apes (ourselves included) are capable of both exploitation and aggression as well as cooperation and empathy, and that the more thorouhgly met are the individuals needs, the less Hobbesian their behavior. But even apart from the dubious value of extrapolations from other primate species to human behavior, what evidence does exists does not particularly support the libertarian notions of how people would behave in the absence of government.

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Posted: 12 January 2007 05:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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jonthomson,

Ascribing separate moral codes for the participants for organizations (family, government, church - also slippery concepts) based on these labels I believe to be the root of all evil. Arguing the effects of these organizations on society is entirely another matter.

I think I agree, though I’m not absolutely clear what you’re sayng here. If you mean that applying different moral standards to the behavor of individuals and organizations (e.g. government, soccer teams), then I think you’re mostly right. I add the caveat because I know some will say that legitimizing the use of force by instituions (always, of course, through individuals such as police officers, soldiers, etc. since the instituions themselves don’t have the physical reality of individuals, as you pointed out earlier) is a way of applying a double standard. And in some sense it is, but I believe there are practical reasons why this can ultimately benefit the group as a whole and most of the individuals in it, so I think it is justifiable. And I can probably predict who in this group will not agree wink.

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Posted: 12 January 2007 07:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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For those who have faith in their government, no justification is necessary. For those who do not, no justification will do.

Without faith, true governance is impossible.

dominick

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Posted: 12 January 2007 09:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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Re: crime with out government?

What does a society with no government look like?

1) www.inclusivedemocracy.org

2) www.zmag.org/parecon/indexnew.htm

3)  

Is this it, Barry?

Of course not!  These are just a few well thought out examples I have been fond of lately.

The values on which parpolity is based are freedom, self-management, justice, solidarity and tolerance. The goal, according to Shalom, is to create a political system that will allow people to participate, as much as possible in a face to face manner. The proposed decision-making principle is that every person should have say in a decision proportionate to the degree to which she or he is affected by that decision.

This reminds me of the nonsense I had to listen to while growing up in Czechoslovakia. “Every person should have say in a decision”? This is simply stupid. Stupid and quiet dangerous actually.

“The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like cattle, dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not harm nor destroy in all My holy mountain, says God.”
(Isaiah 65:25)

I think you misunderstand Parpolity, and have you looked at the other two links, or the original (non wikipedia) stuff on Parpolity?  Participatory Politics or Participatory Economics - and certainly Inclusive Democracy - are not as you perceive.  There are no wolfs and lamb in these systems, only people - equal in economic and political power.

Also, what you had in Europe was not any of these things, but statist, totalitarian communistic socialism.

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Posted: 12 January 2007 09:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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how Fotopoulos’ proposal accomplishes these things

gmgauthi said:

Now I’m really curious! Could you explain how Fotopoulos’ proposal accomplishes these things, without the institution of coercive agencies?

 

The Transition to an inclusive democracy
 
The collapse of actually existing socialism and the parallel failure of Western social democracy and its replacement by today’s neoliberal consensus, in combination with the rise of the ideology of postmodernism and the decline of antisystemic movements, have inevitably led to a corresponding decline of a discussion which was still flourishing a few decades ago: the discussion on a transitional strategy towards an alternative society.

This was inevitable, because the abandonment by the Left (Old, New, and Green) of any vision for an alternative society in effect made such strategies redundant.

A New World Order based on an inclusive democracy is a form of social organisation that re-integrates society with economy, polity and nature within an institutional framework that secures the necessary conditions for the equal distribution of all forms of power. This involves the creation of institutions of:

∑      political democracy (direct democracy), which are based on processes securing that all political decisions (including those relating to the formation and execution of laws) are taken by the citizen body (the demos) collectively and without representation, as well as on structures institutionalising the equal distribution of political power

∑      economic democracy, in which the demoi control the economic process, within an institutional framework of demotic ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, beyond the confines of the market economy and central planning

∑      Democracy in the social realm, in which all public realm institutions in which collective decisions can be taken (e.g. workplaces, educational places, cultural institutions etc) are self-managed under the overall control of the demoi, whereas personal relations are based on a value system which is compatible with the overall democratic institutions of society, i.e. a value system based on the principles of individual and social autonomy and solidarity that rules out any form of domination based on sex, race, ethnicity, cultural differences and so on

∑      Ecological Democracy, in which the ID institutional framework and the value system which is compatible with it secure the necessary conditions for the reintegration of society and nature.

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