In this portion of my explanation of my political principles, I want to briefly lay out how I think a polity (political entity) arises, is rationally understandable, and continues to exist most effectively. It may be helpful to read the previous post before tackling this one.
One of the most important points to consider in forming any political system is the locus of power. From whence does the power to make binding rules originate in human communities? I consider it both fairly obvious and consequential that the incentive and power to do so springs from the communities themselves.
Rules are necessary for the smooth functioning of communities due to the fact that not every human being has the same goals or inclinations as well as the fact that these goals or inclinations not infrequently put human beings in competition with one another. This is an obvious incentive for the creation of rules, but we also need evidence that the source of the power to enforce those rules springs from the community. The evidence lies in the behavior of human social groups which are unable to effectively enforce the rules if the entire community does not positively reinforce behaviors which are favorable to the community and negatively discourage behaviors which are unfavorable to the community. Without the community creating structures for enforcement, the rules cannot be enforced even in principle; thus it is necessary that the community not only invest in creating rules but also in constructing enforcement mechanisms. When the community creates effective structures and implements them consistently, the rules can then be enforced by the community and those who violate the rules can be discouraged from doing so again or removed from the community; thus the community is sufficient for implementing its enforcement mechanisms.
The human community is both the necessary and sufficient condition to generate binding rules, and this is a strong indication that it is the source of the power to make binding rules. Without the power to make binding rules, there is no authority. Power is a necessary condition for authority, though it is not sufficient for authority as we can see with even a cursory look at history.
The question which inevitably follows from an examination of power is the question of authority. Once power is established, who is vested with the authority to make decisions on behalf of the community? I believe that the entity which has the authority to make decisions on behalf of the community should be the entity which is most competent to make decisions on behalf of the community in any particular case. Deciding which entity is competent and establishing a definition of competence relative to any particular exercise of authority are obviously non-trivial matters and merit detailed discussion.
One critical difficulty is that what competence will mean in any particular case is going to be dependent on the goals of the polity under consideration, and the specific goals of a polity may be highly variable. This necessitates a high degree of flexibility in how the polity is organized so that the political structures can be adapted to accomplish the goals of the community, which is important because communities which no longer have a shared authority to provide those functions often find their survival as a community impaired. Also, in such cases the designated authority often finds their survival as an individual tenuous as best.
The question always arises: What are the goals of the polity? The answers to this vary considerably based on the temporal circumstances, the cultural practices, and the value systems of the people involved. There are nonetheless some goals which I see as being universal to the polity in principle and in practice.
The most obvious goal of the polity, whether it is a handful of people in a tribe in the Andes or a global empire like Britain, is the survival of the group which comprises the polity. Whether it be a state or an anarchist commune, the group will seek the means to act collectively in the interest of their survival. This is currently the very nature of any kind of polity, though we can certainly acknowledge that not every polity manages to accomplish this goal. In the future, it may be the case that survival will no longer be one of the goals of the polity, but I suspect that this future is a long way off indeed.
The much less obvious goal of the polity in my view is to avoid punishing virtuous conduct or interfering with virtuous conduct to the extent that it is possible because virtue is both generally good for the survival of the polity in terms of being helpful to the social coherence necessary for prosperity and good for the individual members of the polity in terms of their happiness and health. It could be correctly observed that survival and virtue are sometimes in tension with one another and that there is not always an easy way to resolve the tension.
This is perfectly acceptable to me because I do not take the utopian view of political philosophy which assumes that it sets out to solve all problems that may arise; I prefer political structures which can adapt to unanticipated problems rather than political structures that try (and always fail) to anticipate the problems and solve them all.
Stay tuned for Part III, in which I discuss the most unique and probably baffling part of my political views.