Monday, November 14, 2005

Value-based politics part 1

To examine individualist politics, we have to start from the premise of individual values. A value is something that we seek to gain or keep. Values are rationally determined from the needs that all human beings have, as separate beings and as a part of society. These needs are themselves derived from natural facts. To take a simple example, we have a metabolism that requires nutrition, therefore we need nutrition, therefore nutrition is a value.

There are four categories of values : physical values (air, food, shelter), mental values (rationality, education, well-being), social values (friendship, love, visibility) and political values. This last category is the one that interests us.

Why are there political values ? Because, to have any standard of living beyond the tolerable, we need to live in society. And when living in society, people naturally build institutions and structures in order to regulate interactions between people. These institutions and structures can be oppressive, dictatorial, using force to impose one value system over all others, creating statist social warfare. There can also be a lack of needed institutions or structures, creating anarchic social warfare. Finally, others can stop coercive actions while leaving people free to exist within their value systems, eliminating social warfare.

So we have all these possibilities. Now, to be a value, it must be within the realm of choice. And indeed we all play a little role in determining what these institutions are like - not because of democracy, since voting doesn't change anything, but because we determine (to a certain extent) where we want to live, what causes we want to support, and what behaviour we adopt towards our fellows. Besides, institutions and structures are not a given, they were made by people, and so we can also evaluate them morally.

It's easy to see that the type of system we live in has a direct bearing on the values we can effect, especially if we're not part of the ruling class. A society where only specific value systems are permitted, will alienate a great proportion of the population. Since moral rules that seek to eliminate behaviour are anti-values, such a system is anti-moral - it is the reverse of the expression of values.

So I, as a living, value-driven being, need to live in a society that allows me to express my values while stopping others from trying to stop me from doing so. And in order to reap the benefits of living in society, I wish for everyone else to benefit from the same rights. This is, therefore, a "free society". I value a free society because such a value is necessary for the expression of all my other values. Social warfare, physical warfare, crime, oppression, only engenders death.

So you get political values, and the justification for a free society from the individualist perspective (there are ways to derive a free society from epistemology, but these are irrelevant here). On my next post I'll look at some of these values.

This is an article in two parts. The second is available here.

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