2012-01-26 A proposal for governance: Groups and individuals

This article is a continuation of the ideas begun in A proposal for governance in the post 2011 world

ImageThere are two underlying concepts which must be universally accepted for the current system to function. These two concepts are that groups may act as individuals and individuals may act as groups; two ideas which are fundamentally unsound. While these contradictions were required in earlier attempts at representative governance, the idea was always flawed in a democratic system and recognized as being flawed. As we have progressed to the point where we can eliminate these weaknesses, we have instead greatly increased their use and stopped questioning their appropriateness. Presently these two concepts contribute to fundamental paradoxes throughout the current system which can only be remedied by rejection of the concepts.

Groups acting as individuals

A group is a collection of individuals united for a certain time and space by a specific idea, experience or other common bond. Individuals have the ability to associate, to exchange ideas, to agree, to cooperate, cohabit and in any other way to collaborate, but the group they form does not become an individual. It cannot logically be granted a voice, a vote, or political or legal power. It is only in a system governed by groups and one which does not respect individual rights that such power seems essential.

Any group of affiliated people is an organization dedicated to promoting the interests of its group members. Unlike individuals, who have the power to change their minds and allegiances at will, an organization has a mandate to promote a specific idea and represent a specific group. If a group were to fail to promote its mandate and population above all others, the group would be acting contrary to its reason for existence. A group has no place in a consensus based system which respects all of its individual participants equally and a group does not have the flexibility to accurately represent individuals.

In a system where groups representing individuals is the norm, as in the current democratic political systems, there is a chronic problem of ensuring representation of all minority groups and hearing their rights alongside other larger groups. The issue is not solved by having more and louder minority groups, in every conceivable combination, making futile attempts to ensure that every group has a seat at every table and designing amplification algorithms for their voices, it is solved by ridding ourselves of all groups speaking as individuals and letting every individual speak for themselves. If individual rights for everyone are put above any group consensus, are a given in every assembly, if they are applied equally without distinction of any kind, there is no need for any group to have further representation. The completely incongruous situation we have found ourselves in under the current system, where groups demand and sometimes obtain special ‘individual’ rights, would be unnecessary. No group can properly represent the diversity of its members, only the individuals can.

There is no occasion for group endorsements or condemnations of anything when the individuals have their own voices. Both condemnations and endorsements encourage what ought to be assemblies of individuals with equal voices to place undue importance on pleasing the individuals belonging to the opposing or endorsing group. Dissenting voices from the group are not represented, and individual nuance is lost.

When a group announces (or more accurately, when an individual speaking for an entire group announces) its endorsement of anything, the result is similar to a group of friends attending a party. The object is to ensure they already know everyone and their friends have promised to take their side in whatever circumstances arise. They do not have to worry about meeting new people, much less new ideas, they are bringing their current ones with them. Group representation of individuals contributes to the infantilization of the individuals and allows them to relax and not educate themselves or take part in their own governance. When they do think for themselves, they are frequently less interested in the topic than in the social aspect of being in solidarity with their peers. Groupthink is not only a waste of potentially valuable contributions, it can actually allow flawed initiatives to pass simply because no one wishes to raise an objection, either the people who wish to maintain their membership in a group or the people who are too intimidated to disagree with the group.

Group affiliation behind individual voices allows listeners to reject ideas before hearing them. Labeling an idea as coming from The Left or The Right is enough for many people to refuse to listen to it at all; other equally irrelevant group affiliations result in equally damaging bigotry which prevents communication on any topic. In a system which is built on communication and consensus, such barriers are insupportable.

Corporatist groups are fundamental to all centralized and totalitarian government systems, and antithetical to all open and consensual governance. Corporatist groups produce the same effect locally as they do nationally and globally; the cells create the whole and it is a fundamental contradiction to expect corporatist groups to create a consensual system. It is impossible to reconcile corporatist thinking at any level with an open system of communication and governance.

A group may take an action together, may communicate, may assemble, may agree on points, but a group never has one mind, one personality, one set of values. A group is not an individual and must not be used to represent individual thought.

Individuals acting as groups

The first question to be asked whenever this occurs, is why? Why can these individuals not speak with their individual voices? Is there a flaw in the system that is preventing them from being heard? Because the solution then is to fix the flaw, we no longer live in a world where one individual has to make a long arduous journey to appear in person to represent their town or region, there is no reason why individuals cannot represent themselves in any circumstance. If the members not speaking are not interested then they should not participate instead of lending excess weight to another voice. If they are interested but do not understand, the system needs to be changed to allow for ease of understanding, probably by use of concentric user groups. If individual voices cause too much noise, the system needs to be modified to provide a solution. Individual voices are to be treasured, not lost for expedience.

Who will have the right to represent a group? What will they be allowed to say? What will the wording be? If any member of the group disagrees, if any word is not approved, then the person speaking for the group is no longer representing the group. That person is now speaking as an individual with words unfairly weighted by group affiliation and the individuals in the represented group who allowed this are equally guilty of misrepresenting themselves as being part of a voice they failed to approve. An individual speaking for a group is a dishonest mask for an unfairly weighted individual voice in almost every circumstance.

When individuals speak as groups we frequently do not even know who the individuals behind the groups are or what their individual opinions are. In many cases the group is just the voice of one individual, sometimes an individual who speaks, votes, exercises political and legal power and obtains money or other rewards through many different groups. The group names encourage the public to attach undue authority to an individual voice, to think they are donating time, money or effort to a cause for many which benefits only one individual, to fail to question the background or connections of an individual they do not see.

Corporatist groups tend to be very personality driven systems, where a charismatic leader is given authority not commensurate with any expertise or experience. Where the representative falls short in knowledge or experience, they then have the authority to hire the needed expertise; a perfectly fertile ground for corruption and cronyism as well as incompetence. The representatives are assumed to carry all of the attributes and values associated with the group and given trust and blame not earned by themselves. The task of representing others is impossible and perilous in actuality, so the job is rarely taken up by anyone except as an opportunity to further a personal agenda.

if liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost. – Aristotle

It is understood by all that groups and individuals are different entity types with different attributes. The idea that the two may have their attributes exchanged for expedience is no longer expedient. Corporatist groups contribute to an extraordinary degree to the most problematic aspects of the current system, starting with the ones illustrated here and escalating into legal corporate personhood and democratic dictatorships. In order to create a system without the same failings, these two concepts must be rejected as part of the design. Individuals must begin to communicate as names, not nouns. Groups must be given only those attributes which are logical to them, such as the ability to assemble.

Voices, votes, legal and political power are natural rights of individuals not groups.

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