Friday, December 30, 2016

Basic Rights and Duties

Jacob Sullum's article on California's Bill of Rights for Children and Youth, is a good opportunity to point out how glaring the absence of a basic income is in our conception of human rights. Until a state actually "sorts outs the basic food positions" it is disingenuous for it to assert "rights" to things like healthcare and education. In the case of children, it's worse, because, as libertarians rightly point out, the "right" of a child to healthcare is actually the duty of a parent to have them vaccinated; the "right" of child to education is (for all practical purposes) the duty of the parent to send the child to school. A Bill of Rights in this area does not constrain the power of state, it asserts the power of the state—to interfere in the upbringing of children by their parents.

In all Western democracies, the state should begin by seeing to its own fundamental duties, before assigning further duties to its citizens under the guise of protecting the rights of children. In my view, the most fundamental duty of the state is to create the nation's money. It can do this by distributing the purchasing power needed to buy the products of the economy and collect taxes from the nation's property owners. The owners will thereby be forced to use the land in productive ways, commensurate with their tax burden, and the people will have the means to compensate the owners for their effort and ingenuity. Nature will do most of the work. Indeed, it will do essentially all of it if we include within our conception of "nature" the body of the worker working within its natural limits.

In such a system, every child would have parents with enough money to feed them and enough freedom to raise them with love as autonomous beings. It is not just arrogance on the part of the state to think that it can make better choices for children than their parents can. What we are seeing here is the outright arrogation by the state of the right to raise children. And it asserts this right only after it has designed a fiscal and monetary system to produce a standing threat (and occasional reality) of poverty that humiliates and enervates the entire population. I don't just find it, as Sullum does, absurd. I find it outrageous.

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In the new year, I hope to tie these ideas back into my critique of social science and the sense of "social justice" it informs. I find myself increasingly in agreement with Wyndham Lewis about "the boring and wasteful sham-sciences that have sprung up in support of the great pretences of democracy" and increasingly worried that he was right to think of Fascism as a plausible alternative. At the moment, one does not have much confidence in the prospective dictator, just as Lewis found his counterpart in 1925 somewhat "unfortunate". But I do believe that even back then a truly liberating alternative was also possible, mainly in the visions of Henry George and C.H. Douglas. And it is, sadly, our social sciences that keep us from seeing this utopia clearly.

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