Reclaiming the Public

A new study by Duke University scholars Troy H. Campbell and Aaron C. Kay (“Solution Aversion: On the Relation Between Ideology and Motivated Disbelief,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology) suggests that politics is the root of all social ills.

The research finds that people evaluate issues based on the desirability of policy implications. If said implications are undesirable people tend to deny a problem even exists. The study uses the subject of climate change as a specific example. Most discourse regarding climate simply asks after the role of the nation, or state, in addressing global change — to carbon tax, or not to carbon tax is the question. The Washington Post‘s Chris Mooney connects the dots and notes: “Conservatives don’t hate climate science. They hate the left’s climate solutions.”

This is interesting fodder for the libertarian. Beyond the subject of climate change, this study holds large implications for the entire state apparatus.

The scholarly definition of the state is: “A human community that successfully claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.” State officials, ideology intact, make sweeping policy decisions for entire nations. After each election, parties gain or lose majority influence, but the problem of centralized governance always remains. It is impossible for a few elected officials to form desirable policy representing the whole public, even if they want to. Successful governance and state are ever at odds.

This cannot be more evident today. The United States Congress enjoys a miserable 14% approval rating and after recent mid-term elections the same miserable party affiliates are crafting policy to govern each and every one of us. It is time for polycentric, common governance.

Common governance awards all members of a given community equal rights — power is equally distributed. There is no coercive body delegating policy. Common governance is rooted in liberty, not enclosed by a monopoly of force and violence.

For the libertarian this approach to governance is ideal. We do not view freedom in the abstract — we hold it is critical to unleash the creative, innovative potential of human society. Consistent libertarians seek a stateless society. Beltway political circles dismiss the proposal as utopian and incompatible with modern civilization. These objections are easily refuted, however. We are inclined to decentralize. The emergence of democracy, for example, exhibits this societal trait.

Today it is of increasing importance to dismantle illegitimate forms of authority and spread power to as many individuals as possible. Systems of power and domination contribute to apathy and quiescence. This hinders the populace and denies us the ability to craft our own unique existence. We are too busy denying problems exist to fully engage and participate in democratic decision-making.

The beauty of common governance is its decentralized nature. The commons are built and sustained by individuals — empowering the commons, by default, empowers all individuals. A society operating under the principles of liberty necessarily rejects the concentration of authority and coercive claims to power. Such an order thus champions individual labor, place connections and civic participation in the political economy. Individual achievement exists not despite of, but due to liberty.

Decentralization is a requirement of successful governance. Concentrated power is unnatural. It holds a monopoly over decision-making. Concentrated power lacks competition, innovation and progress — it is static. Common governance, on the other hand, is dynamic. The commons allow all stakeholders to craft and emulate policy, creating desirable options for all participants. Thus, the commons can overcome barriers to meaningful social change as discussed in the Duke study.

Let us end the state monopoly on governance and reclaim the public.

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory