Equality for all has been held up as one of the fundamental truisms and virtues of just governance since the widespread rejection of Patriarcha and the divine right to rule. This concept was conflated after the French and US revolutions to imply all had equal ability to survive in a trade economy. How an idea so manifestly false and impossible ever became lauded as a truism must be found in its expedience and convenience in furthering the objectives of its promoters.
Equality was espoused by a homogeneous group of male caucasian slave owners and enablers. John Locke was both a major investor in slavery and an important contributor to the laws enabling the trade. Thomas Jefferson owned hundreds of slaves. When these men spoke of equality they naturally were not including anyone but themselves in the concept, rhetoric notwithstanding. Babies, children, women, slaves, indigenous people and anyone less able were obviously not their equals and were never intended to be. As covered previously in Binding Chaos: Out of Robert Filmer’s frying pan, into John Locke’s fire, this libertarian concept of trade equality was meant to enable decentralized patriarchy, not remove patriarchy. Why an assumption of equal worth to a trade economy is in no way just is covered in Binding Chaos: An economy for all.
The concept of equality as an economic virtue has been extremely successful in justifying and continuing rule and unbalanced privilege by this same group of people, spreading initially from France and the US where Locke’s writings were most influential. In every tyranny there must be a rational justification of it. The divine right of kings was usually successful in protecting a monarch’s head as few wished to act against god’s will. A secular age must appeal to a sense of fairness which most people are born with. The idea that this one group of people are more worthy as they are more able to take control must be instilled and reinforced constantly, as it is.
The only reason equality in a trade economy is considered a virtue is to allow rule by right of virtue for the fraternity, the libertarian ideal of meritocracy.
In 1792 Mary Wollstonecraft stated the root flaw in every governance algorithm used in the past or present, “Where there is justice there is no need for charity.” Her view has been overlooked by all and the image of a just society is consistently one which has evolved to be charitable. There have been societies that were ruled by justice regardless of ability but they were always few, and since the notion of equality for all under a trade economy became widely lauded as both an ideal and a truism they exist almost nowhere.
If you hear the cry for equality under a trade economy ask: But what of those who are not equal? If the orator accuses you of bigotry for denying what is obviously false you are already dealing with a tyrant. If the orator speaks of giving and brotherly love, run. The equality mantra is the worm at the root of all trade economy systems today and any trade economy based on an ideal of equality will produce the same result, as we have seen. Equality comes from an economic system in which an infant or other dependencies have an inherent right to be included without reliance on charity.
When an ideology decrees that people governed under it will behave in a certain manner it is necessary to look for any reason to believe they will. Among proponents of trade equality as a virtue the best reply thrown at those who point out that people are demonstrably not equal was framed by Marx when he decreed distribution would be “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” This is not effectively different than the answer given in different terms by other ideologies such as the tacked on welfare systems common in most capitalist societies. In all cases Marx’s stated outcome is certainly not inherent in the system and must be enforced by hierarchical coercion. We can see what that looks like every day as the powerful torment the poor, the victimized and the disadvantaged to test their ability and need.
Every political ideology named as one must have defining characteristics. Proponents of ideologies have a habit of stuffing rainbows and unicorns under their umbrellas but when the virtues being attributed are in no way inherent under the defined characteristics there is no reason to expect they will be present when the system is implemented.
Democracy is ridiculously conflated with human rights. If human rights exist under a democracy it is only by virtue of separate bill of rights, constitutions and other documents tacked onto the democracy as appendages. A democracy such as Burma can openly conduct genocide simply by having the majority rule the minority no longer have rights. Democracy is a system of voting, representative or direct, and there is no reason to assume that goals such as human rights or freedom of speech will result from it.
Peer-to-peer is an idea adapted from network architecture. In a p2p network, nodes supply and consume resources to and from each other in a structure for sharing among equals. As network architecture it works beautifully. It does not work for people because people are not peers. All you need to do is picture an infant attached to this network to see the obvious failure in p2p’s “assumed equipotency” of all participants which will result in a need for charity.
The defining principle of direct trade (reciprocal sharing is trade) among equals has absolutely nothing to do with the commons, free software, permaculture, 3D printers or any of the myriad rainbows and unicorns currently being herded under the umbrella. P2P governance is just a hacker-ish name for libertarian. Modern libertarianism can use new technology and other capabilities but there is no underlying philosophical difference. John Locke could point to magnanimous powerful men who gave charitably to their neighbours just as p2p points to free software giving charitably to a non-contributing public, but neither charitable neighbours nor free software are a natural result of the idea of trade among equals. To see what p2p governance would look like simply look at the completely homogeneous list of 26 men (no women) listed as “notable figures“.
We now have no choice but to move beyond the age of equality among young, able, caucasian, educated men from privileged families and start including the entire world. The entire world is now an unstoppable collaborative force and they will no longer tolerate rule by the fraternity of peers.
Occupy, Anonymous and each of the 2011 uprisings were many things but the one thing they were not is p2p. The endless assembleas and communication networks set up by M15 and the gatherings of the Day of Rages were a genuine attempt to hear the voices of the unequal. The Hope Riders, Jasmine Revolution, Occupy and others fought very hard to recognize and support diverse roles and unequal ability. Anonymous is the roar of those omitted from the fraternity, the raw voice of the voiceless unpackaged and sanitized by NGOs and polite representatives. Every revolution the world has ever seen has started with that roar and every revolution the world has ever seen has been co-opted by the fraternity of peers.
We can tell the revolution has failed every time we look around and see the fraternity sitting astride the ideals of the voiceless and promising to ride them to a different place this time. When the hopes and creations of the people once again become rainbows and unicorns to sell a platform for the fraternity to gain power we have failed.
If we are to proceed past the never-ending cycles of revolution and arrive at a system of peaceful evolution we need a completely different system of change. Probably writing that next.