Tag Archives: politics

Constitutional issues: election or random selection?

Introduction

It’s time to discuss constitutional issues. Until now we have primarily focused on what policies we would wish to implement in a space colony, but politics has to operate within a constitutional framework. Specific constitutional arrangements have substantial influence on the political culture of a nation.

An important aspect of modern political systems, euphemistically called “democracies”, are elections. In a representative democracy, which is actually an euphemism for elective oligarchy, the citizens are supposed to elect people who are ought to represent their voters. The idea behind this “representative democracy” is that in a modern nation-state, with hundreds of thousands or millions of citizens, direct democracy is impossible. (It’s a little secret, but most, if not all, political scientists know that true representative democracy is in fact mathematically impossible.)

The primary function of election in modern political systems, is to provide a sense of legitimacy to the government. Under social contract theories, a government is legitimate if it has been approved by its subjects, consent of the governed as political theorist will call it.

However, the idea of government by consent has to be distinguished from the concept of representative democracy. A “consensual” government does not need to be a democratic one, since its perfectly possible for a group of people to consent to the rule of an absolute monarch. Therefore non-democratic forms of government can be justified on grounds of consent by its subjects.

Elections

Elections has several benefits, and also several drawbacks. One advantage of (regular) elections is that politician have an incentive to take public interests into account. At least this is an argument frequently raised by apologists of electoralism. In practise, however, politicians in an electoral system, tend to base their decisions on whether these are popular among the electorate, instead of these measures are in the general interest.

A common complaint about politicians in democracies, is that they often do not look further than the next election. Consequently short-term interests prevails above the general interest in the long run. Elected politicians are also highly sensitive for hypes, a process which is exaggerated by frequent opinion polls.

However, elections also allow citizens to participate in the political process. Besides the voting itself, they can join the campaign of their favourite candidate, they can discuss politics with their friends and family. The fact that there are elections, will trigger people to think about politics and to form their own opinions. Without elections, there are no incentives for many to contemplate political issues.

On the other hand electoral democracies are vulnerable to become particracies. As result of economy of scales, only political parties are able to succeed in a mass democracy. Most prospective politicians lack both the financial means and fame, necessary to win an election on their own. Well-known political parties, on the other hand, can easily attract funds for their campaigns.

Since politicians has to join a political party in order to be elected, political parties exert much influence on the political process by their selection of candidates. In stead of being servants of the public, many politicians are actually employees of a political party. By threatening not to reselect a politician for the next election, political parties can discipline its politicians.

Further political parties are capable to frame the political debate by emphasizing the issues they like. This marketing of political issues allows political parties to manipulate the public opinion, and it’s obvious that this is in conflict with the ideal of democracy.

There is also the risk of polarization, especially in two-party systems. Polarization can lead to a situation in which the political parties are not willing to cooperate with each other, and place the interest of the party above that of the nation.

Random selection

An alternative for elections is to select politicians by lottery, also known as sortition. Under this system there no elections, but are citizens randomly selected for political positions. According to some people, this system is more democratic than the current system of elections.

The proponents of random selection argue that an assembly of random selected members, is more representative for the general population than an elected assembly. This claim can be substantiated. When social scientists wants to do research to the public opinion, they often do survey research. But instead of surveying the total population, they only survey a random sample of the population. Statisticians have shown that by taking random samples, a reliable picture of the whole population can be obtained.

Random selection is also claimed to be more democratic, because every citizen has an equal chance to be selected for a political position. Consequently the role of political parties will be weakened. Actually one should wonder whether there will be any role for political parties under random selection.

Several arguments against random selection can be raised. One could argue that the average citizen is not capable for a political position, and that random selection will lower the average quality of politicians. They would argue that selection by political parties, will guarantee the quality of politicians. However, we can say that the current quality of the average politician is not that high either.

A more fundamental objection against random selection, is that the selection process might be manipulated by the incumbent government. This is especially the case when computer algorithms are used in the process. This might however be countered by making the sortition algorithm public.

Another possible objection is that a randomly selected assembly might pass laws, which have no support of the general public. In order to prevent to passages of such bills, we could introduce the option of a corrective referendum. If a certain number of citizens sign a petition within, say, ninety days, a referendum will be held. When the majority of voters rejects the bill, it will be cancelled.

Hybrid systems

It is of course possible to have a hybrid system, in which a part of the members of parliament are elected and another part is selected by lottery. Some authors have proposed to have one elected chamber and one chamber whose members are randomly selected. But also in unicameral systems it will be possible to have such a combination.

A hybrid system will have its own advantages and disadvantages. But generally we believe that such system would combine most of the good aspects of both systems.

If a substantial part, large enough to be relevant in votes on specific bills, of the legislature is consists of randomly selected citizens, the enormous influence of political parties will be reduced significantly. It will also weaken the link between parliament and the executive, and so it will enhance the separation of powers.

See also

Space settlements and citizenship for an alternative view of democracy.

Dutch rabbi declares in-vitro meat to be kosher

According to Dutch rabbi Lody van de Kamp, in vitro meat is in line with the kashrut, the Jewish dietary laws. Earlier this week the first hamburger made of cultured meat was presented by the public, at this occasion is was announced that Google founder Sergey Brin was the chief sponsor of the project.

Mr. Van de Kamp also states that in-vitro meat might be a solution for the ongoing discussion about ritual slaughter in the Netherlands. Last year a bill aimed at the prohibition of ritual slaughter without stunning was the defeated in the Dutch senate, after having passed by the house of representatives. Surprisingly the rabbi also suggested that in the future, if stem cell can be made from DNA without harvesting of an animal, Jews can be allowed to eat pork.

Space settlements and citizenship

In the model we propose, people who are immigrating to a space settlement will do this by their own choice. Further those residents who wish so, are allowed to leave the settlement at any time, either to return to Earth or to move to another settlement.Though some authors have suggested to impose a minimum period of residence by contract, we believe that save for some exceptional circumstances, such contractual clauses should be avoided.

As such it follows that the residence of a space colony is voluntary (I restrict myself here to the case of adults). However, if the residence of a space settlement is voluntary, then the citizenship of such settlement should also be voluntary. Citizens have more rights than residents, mainly rights such as suffrage, but have also additional duties such as conscription. Of course, different space settlements will have different sets of rights and duties, according to principles on which their societies are based.

Any person who is seriously committed to the idea of democracy, should recognize the right of any person to choose in which society he or she wants to live. A socialist, for instance, should be able to migrate to a socialist society, whilst a libertarian should have the right to move to a libertarian one. This idea is known as foot voting. If democrats give us the right to choose between socialist and libertarian parties, they should give us a similar right to choose between socialist and libertarian societies.

This might sounds the bloody obvious, but in reality it is not. Many countries such as France, the Netherlands and Singapore, do not allow their citizens to renounce their citizenship unless they acquire the citizenship of another country. Some countries, such as Argentina and Morocco, go even further and deny their citizens the right to give up their citizenship at all. If you are born as a citizen of such country you are out of luck, you will remain a citizen until your death. At least these countries do allow their citizens to leave the country, but some countries such as North Korea do anything to keep their citizens prisoners of their own country.

People who do not agree with the principles of their own countries should not be forced to stay. And since many country still impose all kind of obligations, such as conscription or taxation, on their citizens, people should not be forced to keep their citizenship if they do not subscribe to the principles of their country.

The reason why many countries have made it hard to renounce citizenship voluntarily, is the convention on the reduction of statelessness. This treaty is meant to combat the ills resulting from involuntary statelessness. The last century has seen a lot of instances of governments arbitrarily revoking citizenship of their subjects, it’s this abuse which has caused many people to see statelessness as a thing to be avoided. But the general principles of the convention are:

  • Everyone has the right to a nationality.
  • No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality. (Wikipedia)

Therefore if a person should desire to become a stateless person, a state should not prevent such action. The only thing prohibited to states, is to arbitrarily deprive their citizens from their nationality against their will. Only by due process of law, a state is allowed to involuntary deprive a citizen of his citizenship.

Republicanism is based on the idea that citizenship should be voluntary, which is a logical extension of the core principles of democracy. Persons are not the property of their prospective governments, therefore states are not entitled to impose citizenship on their subjects against their will. In practice this would mean that if a citizen should desire to give up his nationality, he or she should be allowed to do so.

See also:

Federalism and Space colonization

Estate tax and Basic Income

Introduction

A short time ago we published a post on monetary reforms, one commenter raised the issue of social inequality. In this post we will address the issue of social (in)equality and equality. Before we continue, we need to define what we understand with equality.

If we talk about equality, we need to ask equality in what perspective? When it comes to social equality, then we can either refer to equality of changes or to equality of results. Basically this covers the primary difference between classical liberalism and socialism, classical liberals focus on the equality of opportunities, whilst socialists focus on the equality of results. The reader might wonder: what about equality for the law? Equality for the law is a fundamental principle common to both classic liberalism and socialism.

Since Lagrangian Republican Association endorses classical liberalism, we will limit ourselves here to equality of chances.

Asset-based egalitarianism

In 1797 Thomas Paine published his pamphlet Agrarian Justice. In this paper Pain argued for the establishment of an estate tax of ten percent for close relatives and a higher percent for heirs who aren’t close relatives of the deceased. The revenues raised this way would be used for 1. an annual pension of 10 pounds for every person 50 years of age and older, and 2. A one-time payment of 15 pounds to every person at reaching the age of 21 years. In Paine’s age the average annual income of a labourer was 23 pounds.

In order to fund the ordinary functions of government, Paine argued for the imposition of a land value tax. Modern income taxes were only introduced from the latter half of the nineteenth century.

But why an estate tax? According to the labour theory of property one can become the owner of unowned object by mixing your labour with those objects. Or in other words by performing labour one gets entitled to the fruits of one’s labour. A tax on income from labour would therefore be immoral, since it’s equivalent to stealing. However, if you inherit property from someone else, you haven’t worked for it and consequently you don’t “deserve” it.

One counter-argument could be that a person has a right to dispose his or her property as he or she see fit. This is true, only as long as you are alive. But at the moment a person dies, he or she ceases to existed and non-existent persons are not able to have property. Consequently after death one’s property automatically becomes unowned. There is no rational reason why the next of kin of the deceased would have more right to get this inheritance than any other person. The only reasons for this are cultural ones.

The proponents of “traditional” inheritance law, should consider the following moral dilemma: Do people born in wealthy families deserve to inherit this wealth any more than people born in poor families to inherit their poverty?

There is another strong argument in favour of estate taxes. This argument is derived from classical republicanism. Republicans believe that civic virtue is the foundation of freedom. However, as explained by Michael J. Sandel:

Civic virtue required the capacity for independent, disinterested judgment. But poverty bred dependence, and great wealth traditionally bred luxury and distraction from public concerns. (Sandel p. 136, 1998).

The inheritance of wealth allows the accumulation of wealth over generation, concentrated in a few families. In this manner a class of people is created who are disconnected from the public interest. Since these people do not have to work, they can devout their careers to politics. Hence a class of ambitious politicians are created.

Paine’s plans would tackle two things: by imposing a tax on inheritances the emerging of a wealthy, powerful but corrupt class would be severely hindered. And secondly, by giving every person a small capital, young people would start their adult life financially independent. Therefore this proposal would encourage a republican form of government.

The reader might ask why giving people this money at the age of maturity? If the government would give the money at birth, the parents would have to manage it until their child becomes an adult. But if the parents have to manage the money, they might be tempted to waste the money, what would cancel its very purpose. Recall that in the late 18th century, most people did not have bank accounts. Nowadays, we could deposit the money on a blocked savings account, but this would effectively the same as giving the money at the day of maturity.

The case for equality of opportunity

Classical liberals, such as David Hume and Adam Smith, believe that inequality of results creates incentives for people to take risks and to accomplish things. Business owners are motivated by the prospect of profit to provide goods and services to the public, workers are motivated by wages to offer their labour. Those who chooses to take risks, should be rewarded for it.

In an ideal world all persons would be able to do whatever they want to do. But in the real world we have to deal with social-economic inequalities. In general those born to wealthy parents have a much better start position in life, than those born to poor parents. Wealthy parents can afford better food, better education and so on for their children. Being born to affluent parents is a matter of luck, not desert (unless you believe in some kind of reincarnation and future births are the result of karma).

The question is therefore whether a society in which people’s opportunities are highly determined by luck can be a just society. In his book A Theory of Justice (1971) American philosopher John Rawls argues that this is not the case. By making use of a famous thought experiment, the original position, he shows why.

Suppose you and I with some other people are to make an agreement about the rules of a new society. We know all relevant facts regarding the physical universe, but we do not know beforehand which position in this new society we will get assigned. This latter lack of knowledge is called by Rawls the veil of ignorance, and he argues this precaution will cause people to arrange the rules of society such that whatever role they will get in that society, they will receive a fair treatment.

According to Rawls people in the original position will derive two principles: 1. all people should have the same set of basic rights, and 2. the so-called difference principle. According to the latter principle economic inequalities are allowed as long as those who are the least benefited will have their situation improved. Therefore Rawls rejects the equality of results as the primary objective of social justice, while he argues for the equality of opportunity.

Thomas Paine’s proposal for asset-based egalitarianism, is fully defended by Rawls’ theory of justice. Actually one could argue that Paine’s idea is closer to Rawls vision of a property-owning society, than the modern welfare state.

The Basic Income Guarantee

A fundamental argument against Paine’s plan is that if you give people a one-time sum of money, many, if not most, of them will waste the money by spending it in a short period of time. Only a few people are likely to manage this money wisely, by investing it in education, a house or business enterprise. A solution for this problem would be to place the money in a savings account, and give people only access to the interest, whilst the principal remains untouched. Another idea would be to give people stocks in a national mutual fund instead of giving them the equivalent money, the stock will pay dividends to their owners but they will not allowed to sell their stocks.

Both the savings account plan and the national mutual fund plan, transform the one-time capital grant to a basic income guarantee program, since people will now receive a periodic income from either interest or dividends instead of a single capital grant. The idea of a basic income guarantee has been proposed at many different times in history. Many different versions have been devised and many different methods of funding such scheme have been suggested.

Before we continue, it’s a good idea to define what a basic income guarantee is. According to Wikipedia, a basic income guarantee is an unconditional payment of a sum of money at regular intervals. Unconditional means here, that save for citizenship no specific requirements are imposed. Every person gets the same amount of money, regardless of income or wealth. In other words a basic income is not  means tested.

This is in direct contrast with most modern welfare programs, which are only available to certain groups of people. In order to prevent welfare fraud, governments of welfare states need to spend much time and money to control whether people who receive welfare are actually entitled to it. By switching from a welfare state to a basic income guarantee system, the government will save enormous amounts of money. And additionally such system would also eliminate the constant violation of privacy which is inevitably linked to the welfare state.

Another argument in favour a basic income, is a classical one and has been used since the middle ages. By giving people a regular basic income, the poor will not have to resort to (violent) crime in order to survive. Those who use this argument believe that the cost of a basic income are way less than the alternative of a society dominated by crime.

A third argument, mainly used by (prominent) economists, is that the implementation of a basic income scheme would allow the abolition of minimum wage laws. The idea is that minimum wage laws result in systematic unemployment of certain categories of people. These people can now be employed at market wages, while they have still sufficient income to live.

Several authors differ on the precise height of the regular payment, but in general proponents of a basic income guarantee believe that such income should be sufficient to live a modest life. Those who desire more luxury should work to support their lifestyle. Empirical research has shown that the introduction of a basic income, doesn’t lead to a decline of the workforce. In fact the exact opposite happens.

Our vision

The basic features of the system we want to introduce in our space-based society, are the following:

1. A basic income for every citizen or permanent resident of 16 years of age and older, to be paid every month.

2. The amount of money paid should be sufficient to live from, therefore no other welfare programs and minimum wage laws will be introduced.

3. Workers have a voluntary option to take a total permanent disability insurance.

4. Employment at will, employers are free to hire and fire employees when they see fit, save for a limited number of restrictions. Employees can resign at any time for any reason.

References

Agrarian Justice On line edition of Paine’s pamphlet.

Sandel, Michael J. 1998. Democracy’s discontent. America in search of a public philosophy. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Space colonies and monetary systems. Part 1

Introduction

A key aspect of any society is its monetary system, and Space settlements are no exception. Though money-less societies have existed in the past, and to some extent even to this day, all modern economic systems use money. However, there are different monetary systems possible, and the choice for a particular monetary system has fundamental consequences for how the economy operates. Therefore it is of great importance to choose a monetary system that fits into our commitment to create a secular, liberal and humanist society.

In this post and its sequels we will give a sketch of the monetary system we propose for a future space-based Republic. The basic features of this system are: 1. government issued debt-free money, 2. full reserve banking and 3. a federal credit bank for providing interest-free loans. We will deal with feature 1 in this post, feature 2 will be the subject of part 2, and part 3 will deal with the third feature. Though some people might argue that monetary and banking systems are separate issue, we believe that these two concepts are fundamentally connected with each other.

1 Debt-free money

First of all, we propose that space governments will have monetary sovereignty, e. g. they will issue their own currencies instead of using foreign currencies and also they won’t pledge the national currency to foreign currencies. If a space nation has no sovereign currency, it will not be able to implement its own monetary system.

Secondly, we propose a system of pure fiat money, which is money not backed by any commodity. Some readers might wonder how money with no intrinsic value would ever be accepted, this is an important question. The answer is given by what is known as modern monetary theory: taxation drives money. By mandating some payments in a specified currency, the government creates an effective demand for said currency. We will explain this by an appropriate example.

As the regular visitor of our site might know we support a land value tax as the primary method to fund government. It’s our opinion that all land in a space habitat should be the property of its respective government, but space governments will be able to lease their land to private parties. Since the government is the owner of the land, it is therefore capable of demanding that the lease has to be paid in the national currency. Subsequently the landholders will have a demand for some national currency, they have to earn this somehow. A landholder might, for instance, choose to become a farmer and to trade his crops for national currency. In their turn the buyers of these agricultural products will demand that their wages to be paid in national currency. And the end everyone will demand to be paid in national currency, and consequently the national currency will be generally accepted.

The requirement that the land value tax has to be paid in the national currency, also implies that so-called legal tender laws are superfluous. Legal tender laws are those laws which demand that a person must accept national currency as payment for debt. As we have seen, any sane person would accept the national currency because it is demanded by everyone else regardless of whether he is obliged to accept the national currency. Therefore legal tender laws could be abolished, or rather space colonies should not introduce such laws in the first place.

Now we know that taxation drives money, it follows that the government can create money, just by printing it. Once the government has imposed the obligation to pay land rents in national currency, it knows people will accept it in payments. And since the citizens has to get national currency somehow in the first place, they will be eager to sell goods and services to the government.

Since the government can print money at will, there is no need for the government to borrow any money, ever. This means that money issued by the government is debt-free, the government also pays no interest over it. The cautious reader should, however, be concerned about inflation. However, if the money supply grows proportionally with the economy, then inflation would be near zero. The problem of (hyper)inflation occurs when the government will print money at a faster rate than the growth of the economy.

It’s clear that even if the government can create money at will, it cannot afford to create an unlimited amount of money at a given time. According to modern monetary theory the growth of the money supply can be regulated by the government: by collecting tax, money is destroyed and by public spending, money is created. If more tax is collected than is spent, then the money supply will decrease. And if more money is spent than taxed, then the money supply will be increased.

Economists who support this theory, argues that in case of high inflation the government should raise taxes and to cut spending. Of course the problem will arise that if politicians control the money supply, they will use the tools of spending and taxing for political rather than economic reasons: decreasing taxes and increasing spending during the time just before an election. Therefore an independent agency should be created which decide whether taxes will be raised, and how much money the government is allowed to spend. Politician will be in charge of deciding how they spend the money, not how much.

Todd Altman has proposed an interesting idea: pegging the national currency to the consumer price index. If the general price level rises with, say, five percent, taxes will be raised also by five percent, whilst spending has to be cut down.

See also

External links

Richard Werner: Debt free & interest free money A YouTube video featuring economist Richard Werner, who explains how debt free money will work.

Modern Monetary Theory Primer An introduction to modern monetary theory on the “New economic perspectives” blog.

On “Republic of Lagrangia”

On the problem of taxation. Part One

On the problem of taxation. Part Two

On the economy of a Space colony

Space colonies and monetary systems. Part 2

Freedom of speech and the denial of historical facts

Recently Cambodia has passed a law which outlaws the denial of crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge. People can receive up to two years of imprisonment. Many Western countries has passed similar laws for denial of the holocaust. Classical liberals are against any of such laws, because they are a violation of the right to free speech.

Some people will argue that crimes against humanity are facts not opinions and therefore they are not covered by the freedom of speech. Classical liberals reject this argument. After all who is to determine what constitutes a fact and what an opinion? Often there is no clear-cut distinction between facts and opinion. For instance, when scientists are discussing different hypotheses. Are these opinions? When a hypothesis has been confirmed by evidence, it’s considered a fact. Science is about establishing facts regarding the world we live in. However, science is also about questioning the things we consider to be facts.

A more important question, is why we should give facts any legal protection? As far as I am aware of, there no laws in any country outlawing the denial of gravity. Any such bill would be dismissed as ridiculous. Generally, it is accepted that facts should speak for themselves.

According to classical liberalism the litmus test for determining whether an action should be prohibited (or regulated) is the harm principle. Only if an action results, or might result, in (physical) harm to third parties then the government is entitled to prohibit said action. Therefore the question becomes: Does the denial of historical facts constitute harm? Although people might be offended by such denial, for understandable reasons, no one is actually harmed by such denial.

John Stuart Mill, the philosopher who has formulated the harm principle in his On Liberty, has also given the most profound defense of practically unlimited freedom of speech. He presents several reasons for allowing broad freedom of speech: An opinion which some seek to suppress, might be true; further by being forced to refute obviously false opinions we are able to know why certain facts are indeed true.

But Mill made a few exceptions to the freedom of speech. In his famous example of a rioting crowd, he argued we should not give a speech to such crowd which might incite them to commit violence, even if such speech could be published in a news paper. Thus, incitement to violence is not covered by freedom of speech.

Further, Mill has also argued that though the government is not permitted to prohibit the denial of historical facts, people might censure the fellow citizens for their opinions. We are not obliged to provide people the means to promote their views, nor are we obliged to associate with such persons.

Our conclusion is that governments should not be in the business of outlawing denialism.

Statehood, legal and practical considerations

Introduction

The primary purpose of Lagrangian Republican Association is the establishment of an independent and sovereign republic in space. However, what is sovereignty? And what is a state? These questions are of great importance for every movement aimed at the colonization of space, whether in free space or on Mars. In this post we will discuss several issues related to statehood and sovereignty. Continue reading Statehood, legal and practical considerations

Space colonies and drug policy

If there is one thing we do not need in any future Space settlement, it is organized crime. One of the leading factors in organized is the prohibition of drugs. So if we want to reduce organised crime, we have to deal with drugs.

We have first to consider why the war on drugs has been a failure. American professor in criminology, Peter Moskos, has explained this as follows:

A child victim doesn’t go out searching for another criminal abuser. But that’s exactly what a drug addict does.

An arrest in the war on drugs usually creates a job opening. Arrest thousands of drugs dealers […], and other needy or greed will take their place. (Moskos p. 19, 2011).

The problem is that drug crimes are economic-demand motivated crimes. As long as there is a demand for illicit drugs there will be people who will sell drugs. And this trade in drugs is mainly controlled by criminal organizations.

Some people belief that using drugs is a victimless crime. They argue that since no third party is harmed if one chooses to do drugs. Therefore under harm principle drugs ought not to be prohibited. Although the principal “victim” of drug consumption is indeed the user, there are, however, serious issue related with drugs.

One is that drugs are addictive, if one uses drugs once they have a physical or mental need to continue using drugs. If a pregnant woman uses drugs, her child might be born already with a drug addiction. This certainly violates the harm principle and could therefore be prohibited or regulated. And being born with a drug addiction is not the only risk resulting from using drugs while pregnant. Children of addicted mothers suffer from several mental and physical development disorders.

Many (heavy) drug users are unable to function at their work, and hence get fired. Subsequently, they turn to crime to support themselves and finance their drugs. In this way drugs also causes significant harm to society. Heavy drug users also do harm by their behaviour. When people are under influence of drugs, they will behave in a different manner then they would otherwise. This is often asocial or violent behaviour.

Until very recently I was a fervent supporter of the global war on drugs, for the reasons mentioned above. I really believed that space settlement should prohibit drugs and should impose harsh punishment to enforce this prohibition. But I had a change of heart when I learned about the truth of the war on drugs in Mexico. Since 2006 tens of thousands of people have been killed in Mexico by rivalling drug cartels.

The Mexican Drug War is the direct result of the American war on drugs, since Mexican gangs are the main suppliers of drugs on the American market. In fact the war on drugs are causing much harm than the problem it ought to solve. Is this really what we want in a space colony?

Unlike some other proponents of drug reform, Republic of Lagrangia believes that drugs should be legalized in combination with regulation. How would our drug policy look like? First, we should treat drugs as a public health issue rather than as a matter of criminal justice. Drugs users who want to come clean should be helped by the government.

In order to prevent in influx of drug users, we should modify our immigration policy: terrestrial drug addicts should not be allowed to immigrate to outer space. If they can overcome their addiction, and stay clean for some years, we might welcome them as new settlers.

Although the use of drugs causes several social problems, violent drugs dealers are probably an even worse problem. The problem of drugs dealers is easily to solve: in order to have supervision on drug users, the state should consider to monopolize the trade in drugs. Since the state has no profit motive, it could offer drugs at cost price. The production of drugs is quite cheap, it’s prohibition which increase their market value. Because of this huge margin of profit, people become drugs dealers. If the state should offer drugs at low prices, then dealing drugs will lose its attractiveness.

Another benefit of state controlled supply of drugs, is that drugs users can be sure that the stuff they purchase is actually safe. It is not uncommon for ruthless drug dealers to sell instead of drugs, dangerous substances as wash powder. Because of the illicit nature of this trade, no fooled drug users will report those bastards to the police. Therefore these criminals get away with their fraud.

Also we believe that selling drugs to persons below 18 years of age should remain illegal.

References

Moskos, Peter 2011. In defense of flogging. Basic Books, New York.

Incest and Bestiality are NOT victimless crimes

Introduction

Republic of Lagrangia endorses the version of classical liberalism as have been described in On Liberty by John Stuart Mill.

The most important concept in this work is the so-called harm principle. What is this principle? The harm principle basically states that individual liberty should only be limited in order to prevent harming of others. In other words: a certain behaviour can only be prohibited by the government is such behaviour is harmful to others. This also means that the law should not make acts of self harm illegal. If some one chooses to harm himself without harming others, then we should not consider such person as a criminal.

Related to the harm principle is the concept of victimless crimes. These are crimes which do not have a victim. However, what is a victim? Some crimes such as murder, rape and theft, have clearly identifiable victims. But there are crimes in which the victims are less clear. An example is environmental pollution, which does harm person by destroying our environment. Only in case of environmental pollution it is often not clear who exactly has been harmed. Some wingnuts claim for these reason environmental pollution is a victimless crime, of course this is pure bullshit.

However, the harm principle does not state that some one has to be harmed intentionally by some act. If it is known that a certain act is harmful for some one, then this would be sufficient reason for prohibiting such act (or at least to regulate such behaviour).

Some people would argue that incest between mutually consenting adults is not a victimless crime. And people such as David Brink, suggest that bestiality is a victimless crime. In both cases, people argue that no one is harmed by such acts. In this post I will explain why neither incest nor bestiality is a victimless crime.

Incest

With incest we mean here: sexual intercourse between two consenting adults who are close relatives of each other. This definition excludes sexual relations between adults and minors and rape of a relative. These latter two act consist two separate crimes, since they are generally not considered as victimless.

One might argue that if two (or more) person consent to have sexual intercourse with each other, then there is no harm. In most cases, this would indeed be true. However, if two closely related persons have sex we have to take into account the children who might result from this act. And in case of two close relative having intercourse we have to deal with the risks of inbreeding.

It is a widely known fact that children of parent who are close relatives, have a greater change of having genetic disorders. Many governments are persuading pregnant women not to smoke or drink alcohol, because of the potential harm for their unborn children. Following this logic, we should also discourage close relatives to have sex with each other, in order to prevent harm to the children who might be conceived during an incestuous affair.

Inbreeding becomes even more serious when the children of closely related parents would have in their turn children with their relatives. For each generation that a family practices incest the incidence of genetic disorders will increase. And these disorders include very serious illnesses. There is incest certainly not a victimless crime.

Bestiality

Bestiality is when a human has sexual intercourse with a non-human animal. This behaviour is harmful in several ways.

First, we have to consider the harm done to the animal. According to Mill’s teacher Jeremy Bentham animals should have moral relevance because they can suffer, just as humans. Therefore animals are also covered by the harm principle. Although harming an animal might be justified in certain extraordinary circumstances, we absolute do not consider trying satisfying some (perverse) sexual urges as one of those.

Whether an animal will suffer of sexual intercourse with a human, depends on the physiology of the particular animal. However, even if an animal is not physically injured, an animal might suffer psychological damage from a unconsensual act.

A second reason why bestiality should be illegal is the problem of diseases which can be transferred from one species to another. By having intercourse with animal a human being might be infected by some disease. If such person subsequently has intercourse with a human, (s)he might infect other people. A new, potentially epidemic, infectious disease has been born. Or the zoosexual might infect other animals.

Scientists believe that HIV has been transmitted from apes to humans at some point in last century. We do not want just another of such disease. Therefore bestiality is not a victimless crime.

See also:

Space colonization and vegetarianism

The Ideal Space Settler?

American philosopher James Park has written a document in which he outlines criteria for selecting immigrants for the USA. In this post I want to discuss what characteristics are desirable in prospective Space settlers. Since launch capacity is limited, only a few hundreds or thousands of people will be able to immigrate to Space colonies each year (at least this will be the case during the early years, when Space settlements will develop this capacity will raise). Therefore good criteria for selecting settlers for new Space colonies will be even more important.

What are Park’s criteria for selecting new immigrants? His article gives the following list:

1.  LANGUAGE ABILITIES

2.  OCCUPATIONAL SKILLS

3.  BUSINESS ABILITIES AND CAPITAL

4.  CREATIVE TALENTS

5.  EDUCATION

6.  FAMILY CONNECTIONS AND OTHER SUPPORT SYSTEMS

7.  MINOR CHILDREN INCLUDED IN THE IMMIGRANT FAMILY

8.  NOT BEING A CRIMINAL

9.  SELECTING THE VERY BEST APPLICANTS

10.  LOTTERY AS AN ALTERNATIVE

11.  CONCLUSION: THE BEST PEOPLE ON EARTH

I will discuss this points one by one.

Language

Not surprisingly Park argues that new American immigrants should be able to understand and use English. However, there is no reason to assume that  English will be the official language of a Space colonies. We have discussed the issue of language and Space colonization in a previous post.

Occupational skills

This one is of particular interest. Space settlements are in need of a wide variety of occupational skills. Unlike present day America, Space settlements has to start with zero population.Therefore every job opening has to be filled by an immigrant, simple because are no unemployed Space settlers. Even more than in the USA immigrants has to be selected for relevant skills, we do need five hundred psychologists but a few physicians are very welcome. Especially we need people with practical and technical skills.

Business abilities and capital

It would be fine if people with business abilities and capital will join the Space movement, however it is not necessary that these people will join the first few shifts of immigrants. People willing to invest their capital in Space colonization can do that through donations and loans, and can use their business abilities to organise the Space movement. However this can be done from Earth as long as Space settlements are in their infancy.

Creative talents

This one is very important. Because Space settlers are subject to unexpected situation creativity is key to survival in Space. Therefore selecting prospective settlers on their creativity is not only a good idea, it is of vital importance.

Education

Having completed an education is not only important for the specific skills one has acquired, but is also proof that someone has the ability to learn new things. Further by being educated someone also demonstrates having the discipline to complete certain tasks.

Family connections

In isolated small communities like a Space settlement with a few hundred residents, inbreeding is a huge problem. For this reason alone, being a relative of an existing Space settler should be a contra-indication for selection. The risks of inbreeding do not weigh up to the benefits of having relatives in a Space colony.

Yes, we acknowledge those benefits. If you have family in another country you will adapt to your new country faster, because you are supported by people you know and love. However, for existing countries with large populations such as the US inbreeding is not a real concern, since such countries already have a diverse gene pool.

Minor children

For practical reasons it would be better if Space settlements should select immigrants who haven’t children, yet. Preferentially immigrants are either young (between age 18 and 40) singles or childless couples. We believe it would be better if Space settlers will found a family after immigration to Space.

Children, especially the very youngest, might suffer from extreme stress as a result of immigration from Earth to Space. The trip from Earth to the Lagrange points of the Sun-Earth system will take month, during which the immigrants will be subjected to low or zero gravity (in the space habitats there will be artificial gravity). Such a long period of zero gravity will have enormous effects on the health of children and might be dangerous for them.

Given that it would be better for Space settlers to found a family after immigration, so that their children can grow up within artificial gravity, we should limit immigration opportunities of people above the age of forty. However, there should be no immigration ban for those category, but we should prefer young adults, although the presence a few middle-aged person will be desirable.

Not being criminal

This one is really obvious. The last thing we need in a Space settlement are murderers, (serial) rapists, paedophiles, terrorists, all kinds of violent robbers etcetera. Only people who are able of peaceful cooperation are welcome in our new societies. All prospective Space settlers should be able to prove their lack of a criminal record. Once it has been discovered one has lied about his criminal record, that person should be expelled from the settlement.

I will discuss the topic of criminal justice and space colonization in a future post, for now you can read this post.

Selecting the very best immigrants

The question whether we should select the very best immigrants, or should immigrant just be sufficiently good? I think we should opt for the latter, albeit our standards should be quite high.

A particular concern of James Park is preventing a brain drain from other countries. Given the fact that due to limited launch capacity only a few hundred people can immigrate to Space Settlements. So the Space movement has not to worry about a possible brain drain.

Lottery as alternative(?)

James Park suggest to use lottery instead of the criteria mentioned above. However we would argue to use lottery in addition to those criteria. After all, there are much more people who would qualify than could be reasonable transported into Outer Space. Lottery would give each potential immigrant an equal chance of being selected.

Our selection process will be a two-step procedure. First prospective settlers will checked whether they met our criteria, if they qualify they will be admitted to the next step. The second step will a lottery. If for instance a hundred people can be transported to a Space settlement, and say five thousand applicants are qualifying, then from their names one hundred will be randomly selected.

Additional Criteria

Since emigrating to a Space Settlement is quite different from to the US, we should have a few additional criteria. As explained in a previous post, we believe that prospective should be vegetarians. People who really like to eat meat, should not apply. Further people should sign a pledge that they subscribe our value, especially that they support our commitment to Republicanism, Liberalism, Secularism and Humanism. People who don’t like these principles should either found their own space colonization group or they should stick here on Earth.