Thursday, June 09, 2005

New Baker's Dozen: Rebuilding Nations

This was first published at

Baker’s Dozen ™ Tips for Rebuilding Disfunctional Societies
With thanks to Quintin Langley for the original idea.

Massive invasions to “liberate” nations, even when coupled with massive foreign aid programs, voting schemes, and generous pensions for redundant politicians and military dictators, have been proven to be inadequate for creating truly human societies. (For example, it has been sixty years now since most of Europe was liberated from Nazi tyranny, and they STILL can’t get it right.) Therefore, these tips to create a functional and human society are provided for your use. WARNING: Avoid so-called “professional” individuals and groups, especially those who claim vast experience in nation-building (or re-building) and those with short acronyms or abbreviations like “UN”, “USA”, or “CPSU.”
While these tasks are listed in general order in which they should be accomplished, it is not always necessary to complete one task before proceeding to the next.

Remove or limit the ability of organizations (including “states” or “governments”) to harm their members (clients/citizens/etc.) and their neighbors. “De jure” limits seldom work unless “de facto” limits are already in place. In some cases, this may require five to ninety years to accomplish. Although “disarmament” is claimed by many to be the only way of removing or limiting this, history has shown that disarmament works, at best, for a very limited time; the time-proven method of limiting the ability to cause harm is to ensure that neighbors and citizens are adequately armed and capable of using those arms effectively.

Establish ownership of property (institutionalize property). Establish and enforce ownership by individuals of all possible resources, including land, structures, water, air, airspace, broadcasting bands (frequencies), ideas, and rights to provide specified services to specific persons or in specific locations for specific purposes. English common law developed to provide this institutionalization of property, and evolved by hard knocks to ensure that resources (assets) held informally or put to use were recognized as property. The institution of property, free from the whims of rulers, invaders, and envious neighbors is essential to create a free society.

Establish methods of resolving disputes which do not involve immediate use of weaponry or a ruling by a “wise man” from a throne. Solomon was a rarity: one in several hundred billion. Have several methods, at least somewhat independent. If it turns out that violence is sometimes necessary to resolve an otherwise insoluble dispute, make sure that obvious physical and mental differences are balanced.

Diversify education. Schools, formal or informal, are the basis of the flow of information required for a society to function. Turning schools into instruments of government, at ANY level (local, regional, national) ultimately destroys free speech AND the economy, as the aims of government are inexorably opposed to the goals of proper education: learning to communicate and share information. Education must be free and separate from the state, just as religion must be, and for most of the same reasons. Priority must be given to primary schools: higher education will follow naturally. No person, organization, or institution should have a monopoly on education anywhere, anytime.

Eliminate corruption at all levels, in both the “public” and “private” sectors. Under the table payments are damaging to society and the economy. Living on tips, whether you are a waiter, a soldier, or a politician, is corrosive and reduces or eliminates the feedback necessary for a market economy AND a free society. If the full price of the goods or services provided is not clear and up-front, inefficiency is far above tolerable levels.

Establish commonly accepted standards. This is a broad area, because it includes everything from commonly accepted standards for weight, length, and other physical measurements to commonly acceptable standards for proper behavior of children, teens, military personnel (on- and off-duty), business-owners, employers, employees, and media, among others.

Provide (as much as possible) all goods and services by private, voluntary actions. Do not attempt to allocate any goods or services by elections, appointed officials, or redistribution of stolen goods.

Eliminate (as much as possible) forced payments and forced services. This amounts, in fact, to an elimination of taxes. Make voluntary contributions the normal way of providing for needs which affect a large segment of society or for services which cannot be done by a free market. Once this is done, it doesn’t matter what you call the political leaders.

Devolve power. While a “strong man” or “man on a horse” may temporarily solve some problems, in anything but the very short term they create more problems than they ever solve. Whatever political power exists, whatever power to enforce laws, defend against aggression, or implement new laws or enforcement, must be divided as much as possible, both geographically and culturally (that is, by segments of society such as classes, ethnic groups, religious affiliations, or other divisions). In particular, internal defense against aggression (internal “police” powers) and external defense against aggression (“military” powers) must be kept separate, if at all possible with completely different geographic jurisdictions.

Encourage learning and education outside the state or country or society being “built.” Learning that there is a way of doing things outside your clan, town, county, people or nation, even if you don’t LIKE the other ways of doing things, matures you amazingly. Apply this principle even to those people who just can’t seem to understand that they are not supposed to attack people, control them, or be rude: whether this education is done by banishment or putting them in Coventry is really a moot point, as long as the rest of the population is safe from them.

Separate civic (ceremonial) and administrative (working) roles for government at all levels. No one needs any power whatsoever to welcome soldiers home, visitors to town, dedicate buildings, cry with the survivors, raise money to help the injured, or kiss babies.

Encourage preachers. Not “religious leaders” (whatever they may be called) but preachers – those teaching whatever doctrine they wish to proclaim, calling people in the public eye to account for their actions, urging people to live moral (or even immoral) lives, and reminding people there is something beyond society and the state.

Do it in writing. Living constitutions stink worse than the “dead” written word.

Version 1.1. This initial list may be amended in the future; your comments are appreciated and will be incorporated in future editions.
© 2005, Information Incorporated

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