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The machinery of government

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I have reading allot about bureaucratic theory lately (Max Weber and what not) and I was just curious as to what the specific structure of an Objectivist government would be or wether there is even an objective answer to the question. For example I see some Objectivists support government institutions like the CIA and others oppose it. I'm trying to paint a concrete picture as to exactly what the government in a free society would look like.

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As far as I understand objectivism does not suggest any structure of government. Instead it merely gives two principles that must be upheld by any government to be in accordance with objective reality.

a) a government has the monopoly over the use of non-defensive force in a clearly defined geographical area.

B) a government will use force to protect the right of each individual to his life, liberty and property, and only for such purpose.

Since different people have different cultures obviously the structure of government will vary greatly across the earth. There is no one size fits all.

Edit: removed smilie

Edited by Tordmor
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I think government agencies such as the CIA or FBI are necessary so that we have a means to assess terrorist, military, or criminal threats. They fall broadly under military and police powers, respectively. Whether they are quite as expansive as they are now, is a matter of political discussion. Then there are obviously the courts, to arbitrate disputes among citizens and enforce contracts.

Some form of health agency such as the CDC might be justifiable on the grounds of preventing or tracking infectious diseases. A health agency such as the British NHS would not be, because those are for personal health issues, and dealing with your own illness is fundamentally different from being protected from someone else's.

As far as Cabinet positions: most of them can go, minus Treasury, State, War ("Defense"), Health (it would likely be whittled down a lot, to about the point mentioned above), Homeland Security (which would also be pared down from its current form and merged with War), the VA (also merged with War), and the Attorney General.

In general, a capitalist society would have a government with very specific and limited powers, intended only to secure individual rights. This is often criticized as "do nothing" (a claim I consider somewhat amusing because protecting rights is the most important thing any agency could possibly do). In Atlas Shrugged's Colorado, for example, the government only operated courts and police.

As for financing government, Objectivism prefers "voluntary taxation", which is not quite the same as writing a check for whatever you wish to give or not give. It involves schemes like fees for court use, voluntary insurance charges on contracts (ie, a contract is only enforced if the parties pay a small fee beforehand), tolls on roads (perhaps, if properly applied, a surcharge on motor fuels for road maintenance instead), and other forms of "user pays". Given the very small size of such a government, such voluntary taxation is not "pie-in-the-sky". But as Objectivist political philosophers note, this is the last step toward a fully free society.

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Some form of health agency such as the CDC might be justifiable on the grounds of preventing or tracking infectious diseases. A health agency such as the British NHS would not be, because those are for personal health issues, and dealing with your own illness is fundamentally different from being protected from someone else's.

I'm not sure your argument for something like the CDC is made clear. Surely, the tracking of diseases could be handled better in the private sector and through media. I'm not sure that even the prevention of a spreading of disease is really best-handled in the governmental sector -- certainly, in the case of an outbreak, we know that the CDC is ill-prepared for administering vaccinations, which could be handled in the private sector, for-profit.

As for financing government, Objectivism prefers "voluntary taxation", which is not quite the same as writing a check for whatever you wish to give or not give. It involves schemes like fees for court use, voluntary insurance charges on contracts (ie, a contract is only enforced if the parties pay a small fee beforehand), tolls on roads (perhaps, if properly applied, a surcharge on motor fuels for road maintenance instead), and other forms of "user pays". Given the very small size of such a government, such voluntary taxation is not "pie-in-the-sky". But as Objectivist political philosophers note, this is the last step toward a fully free society.

Generally, I think you are in the right, but I would think that "tolls on roads" is counter-Objectivist, as you've mentioned, since roads should be completely privatized, and this is initiating force against the private companies which control the roads. I'm not aware of an Objectivist argument against the complete privatization of roads.

Certainly, people will financially support the military and police if acting in their self-interest. Perhaps "war bonds" could be bought to help support, although, I'm not very familiar with such methods.

Also, I think the department of State's power would also have to be lessened, because, as it stands, so-called "foreign relations" often involve manipulating global trade through tariffs, duties, aid, loans, et cetera, which are unacceptable in a free society.

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Some form of health agency such as the CDC might be justifiable on the grounds of preventing or tracking infectious diseases. A health agency such as the British NHS would not be, because those are for personal health issues, and dealing with your own illness is fundamentally different from being protected from someone else's.

CIA/FBI would be necessary I agree, since it really is exactly how police or military needs to function. I don't see how a CDC type agency in the government is even protecting rights. It's useful, sure, but if it isn't related to protecting rights, it should be private.

As far as Cabinet positions: most of them can go, minus Treasury, State, War ("Defense"), Health (it would likely be whittled down a lot, to about the point mentioned above), Homeland Security (which would also be pared down from its current form and merged with War), the VA (also merged with War), and the Attorney General.

As the Cabinet positions exist, I don't think any of them need to remain. I would imagine you'd only need a "Defense" and "Law/Court" cabinet positions, for the two main functions of government. You might not even need a President, just one guy in charge of Defense and another for Law/Courts. Maybe you could avoid "cabinet" entirely and just restructure the branches of government. This would certainly require rewriting a whole new constitution. You might not even need an Executive branch, it probably could be just be a position within a Law/Court branch.

As for financing government, Objectivism prefers "voluntary taxation", which is not quite the same as writing a check for whatever you wish to give or not give.

I would still imagine writing a check would be fine for funding. I'm not sure why you brought up tolls on roads, since a government wouldn't even be involved in roads, just as a government couldn't run an amusement park for its funding. As long as government income comes from donations or services it actually provides, anything would really be good.

To me, going to voluntary taxation should be the absolute first step if you want a truly free society. Maybe not necessarily first, but definitely a top priority. It is such an obvious and profound violation of rights I can't think of any reason why it should be "last".

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I can justify a State department (for handling diplomatic relationships with other countries--presumably as a less drastic way to protect our rights than going to war with them would be). This would be a *lot* less work than it is today. There would be no need to negotiate trade agreements with other countries, for instance. (Our economy is open, you can shoot yourself in the foot with tariffs if you like, no skin off our nose.)

The Treasury department originally minted coins and handled tax receipts. In an O-ist society, it *might* police for fraud in the minting of coins and certainly *would* handle collecting contributions.

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I said CDC might be appropriate - the existence of the private sector is a strike against the government, but I imagine there would at least be some debate over whether spreading a disease is an infringement of rights - I remember reading a posting a few days ago where exactly that issue was raised, and I didn't want to preempt those who are more familiar with political philosophy than I am.

Also, the Constitution does provide for government ownership of roads. As long as that's in there, the Congress does have the power to finance roads. Of course, nothing precludes us from amending the document, but we can't ignore that without amendment, the government will control some roads. If the confusion was on my use of government collecting excise taxes on fuel or tolls, I should make clear that government would not be financed by this method. Roads would be kept in a distinct account, to be paid for by those taxes only (and the taxes would go only to the roads, not general functions).

Regarding taxation, Rand wrote about the issue in Virtue of Selfishness (I'm not trying to appeal to the authority here, just bringing up the article) where she specifically identified it as the last change in an otherwise fully free country. The simple, practical reason is that if government tried to do everything it does now (regulate, redistribute, etc) it would fall apart - no one would voluntarily fund such a leviathan to the extent necessary to keep it going. And most likely, in such a financial situation, it would divert cash away from its legitimate functions (courts, military, police) toward "services people want" (regulation, redistribution).

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Also, the Constitution does provide for government ownership of roads. As long as that's in there, the Congress does have the power to finance roads. Of course, nothing precludes us from amending the document, but we can't ignore that without amendment, the government will control some roads. If the confusion was on my use of government collecting excise taxes on fuel or tolls, I should make clear that government would not be financed by this method. Roads would be kept in a distinct account, to be paid for by those taxes only (and the taxes would go only to the roads, not general functions).

Certainly, you are correct that the Constitution does include this. If I recall correctly, it also includes for the establishment of a post office, as well as other public-sector absurdities, and a number of back-doors that have led us down the road towards statism.

Steve, you mention the Treasury might handle fraud of minting coins, i.e. counterfeiting (if I'm understanding you correctly). I'm not sure how this would apply, since the private mints should be completely controlling the minting; I think fraud, in this sense, could be handled completely in the courts, with the private mints vs the counterfeiters.

I'm not sure a completely separate Treasury would be necessary, since the current implementation acts as a way to pool (and distribute) received money; it may make more sense to have individual treasury departments for military, police, et cetera, that control the distribution of money within that particular organization, akin to TheAllotrope's mention of distinct accounts.

As TheAllotrope mentions, the Constitution can be amended to fix such issues, which may be the only practical option; ideally, an Objectivist government may do better by completely re-writing the Constitution, instead of taping up the leaks, but I wonder how that could come about besides violent overthrow.

Edited by Carlton
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I don't imagine violent overthrow would instate an Objectivist government. Given that the US is not a dictatorship, violent overthrow would contradict the non-initiation-of-force principle. At this point, the battle is cultural and intellectual, not physical. Duke it out as a lobbyist (there are lobbyists who seek a roll-back of the State), write editorials, get a presence in media, publish books, speak out, talk to your friends and neighbors, but let's not even bring up insurrection if it doesn't apply.

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I don't imagine violent overthrow would instate an Objectivist government. Given that the US is not a dictatorship, violent overthrow would contradict the non-initiation-of-force principle. At this point, the battle is cultural and intellectual, not physical. Duke it out as a lobbyist (there are lobbyists who seek a roll-back of the State), write editorials, get a presence in media, publish books, speak out, talk to your friends and neighbors, but let's not even bring up insurrection if it doesn't apply.

Oops! Please, don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating a coup at all in this point (you are correct, the US is not yet a dictatorship).

My point is that the Constitution, unfortunately, can't just be thrown out and totally re-written, but has to be amended (as you mentioned), band-aided bit-by-bit. I'm stating the only way I can fathom that it could be thrown out would be insurrection. I see this as unfortunate due to the number of inherent problems in the framing, largely due to the plague of altruism which infected the framers, as well as their underestimation of the capabilities of private enterprise.

If it's possible, it'll take a long time to fix it -- always harder to roll statism backwards than push it forwards; the only alternative I see is that we do eventually become a dictatorship, in which case, "the tree of liberty would need to be refreshed with the blood of tyrants", to paraphrase Jefferson.

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It is technically possible to offer a new, fresh constitution as an Amendment. The likelihood of that happening is admittedly extremely small, but there's no technical limitation requiring that people go with "band-aids".

I do think we're now straying from the OP, though, so let's be courteous and keep it pertinent to the topic.

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