by James Leroy Wilson by James Leroy Wilson
As I understand it today, the freedom movement of the Right is governed by four values. They do not carry equal weight in any one person's value system, as some of us are secular liberals and others very religious conservatives. But I think each one is indispensable to the movement:
- Principled, philosophical defense of individual rights, including property;
- Austrian School economic analysis;
- Defense of the literal meaning of the Constitution;
- Faith in the Gospels and in the moral teachings of Biblical law.
I know, I know. Some will object to #4, and will e-mail me to cut out all this religious stuff. And, of course, others do not really want #3, preferring secession or the Articles of Confederation. Buchananites resent the free-trade arguments of #2. But on the whole, the common end of libertarians, Old Rightists, and confederates is, I believe, the abolition of the welfare-warfare State. And both the Constitution and the Bible prohibit it. (If the Constitution operated as it was intended, Southerners would be its most valiant and patriotic defenders.)
The first two values are essentially liberal, because of their emphasis on individualism and reason. The second two are conservative, in that they appeal to traditional loyalty and faith. Conservatives, of course, often use liberal-libertarian arguments, and libertarians frequently appeal to the authority of the Founders, which is an intrinsically conservative thing to do. So there is a lot of integration of these values as scholars and activists develop their ideas.
But there has been a missing ingredient. The Freedom Right tends to convert very few people to its causes. Those who are converted tend to be very intelligent, but not in high places of cultural or political leadership. In other words, we don't have mass appeal. There are some signs – such as the popularity of this site – that the movement's growing, but will it grow large enough to affect change before it's too late?
The stumbling block is that our arguments may be the most well-reasoned out there, but people still aren't convinced. Our agenda do not "feel" right to people. Put simply, we are not speaking to the real-life experiences of most people. We may be appealing to reason, or even to faith, but not really to human nature.
Mike Tuggleu2018s Confederates in the Boardroom bridges this gap, and thus provides us with an invaluable resource for further scholarship and, more importantly, activism. Not that the activists should march and chant "General Systems Theory!" but that the vision for how social systems work would clarify our goals while at the same time broaden and deepen the explanations and defenses of our positions.
In a brief (the main text is 157 pages) work, Tuggle introduces General Systems Theory and how it applies to human identity and political organization. General Systems Theory came from the natural sciences where observation of actual events is the basis of study. It developed not initially from the study of human behavior, but from biology, engineering, and chemistry. Common principles in each are common to the human body as well as to human society. Living organisms are systems unto themselves and sub-systems within a larger system. (While we are often reluctant to call society an "organism" it certainly has all the features of a system.)
I am myself a system, but within me there are organs which are themselves systems and which interact with each other for their very own survival. Within those systems are smaller units, like the brain's neurons. Even where there is death and decay, the remaining units struggle to survive jointly – each cell in my body has an interest that I stay alive. And they adapt when there is loss. The survival of each is linked to the survival of the whole. There are information links in the system. My decision to go to the bathroom wasn't because of the needs of my brain, but because of information about other parts of my body that my brain received.
Likewise, the entire system – me – is part of a larger system, called society. We rely on similar units – others of our own species – to provide us with the most vital information. If I know that there was a terrorist attack in Spain, it is because another human being told me so through human-made instruments like radio and television. It's not as if a bird flew over the ocean to tell me what happened.
We see our fate in the well-being of others in our species, our society, not just ourselves. Social units can become their own systems. Just as my organs depend on the survival of the other organs, so do I depend on the larger system – society. Instead of living to meet mere physical need which perhaps a robot could be trained to do, I'm betting my survival, happiness, and identity on the larger system. The more I'm integrated with other individuals – that is, the more friendships and economic relationships I have – the greater I can profit in terms of happiness, and the greater ability I have to cope with the sadness of disappointment and loss. Likewise, the more willing I'd be to sacrifice even my life for the survival of others, for the sake of the system. As Tuggle writes, "It is the ability of a culture to survive, and to inform members of that culture of the behaviours that promote survival, that makes cultural knowledge and participation invaluable to the individual (p. 67)."
Yet this is not socialism – quite the opposite. Socialism reduces individuals into abstract machines who are forced to match their abilities to that which the reasoned, intelligent managers determine is best, for the happiness of all.
The logic of confederacy, and of General Systems Theory, is the opposite of socialism. Instead of top-down commands and controls, power is decentralized down to the point where decentralization is no longer possible. The promise of GST is that each system is autonomous unto itself, yet a sub-system in a larger system. The free and open exchange of information to all is at the very core of a genuine, complex system. Whereas socialism and Statism demand centralized decision-making, which means cutting off the flow of information to the people.
The top-down bureaucratic chain of command is no longer the trend in business. Instead, organizational systems that encourage individuals to thrive, rather than meet the management's "objectives" is what's prized. More productive workers are those who are allowed to control their own environments and do their job as they see fit. They want to contribute to the well-being of the corporation; they understand that their own job security and enhancement lies in the well-being of the company as a whole. But living under the threat of productivity quotas and objectives is not the way to go; instead of creating an environment in which the individual will do the minimal amount to avoid getting fired, create an atmosphere in which each person is free to take pride in their own work and in the work of the corporation as a whole.
Unfortunately, our government does not embrace these decentralist principles which founded our country, but is instead increasingly centralized in powers and decision-making, beholden to Hobbesian logic. The Hobbesian worldview says that if it weren't for The State, I'd be inclined to kill people, or steal from them. And that you would from me. We submit to the State for our own protection.
But the reality is that Edmund Burke and John C. Calhoun were correct: man is indeed a social animal, and we can form communities and governments that respect and reflect our common culture.
Local cultures should be left alone; outside intervention will cause justified resistance. I'd be just as angry if Iraqi tanks roamed my Chicago streets as Iraqis are at American occupation of their country. The road to peace and prosperity for all is not foreign occupations in the name of abstractions like "human rights" or "democracy," but rather open trade and information exchange between different communities, cultures, and nations. Because the more openness there is, the greater the bonds will be between the peoples, and the less it is in the self-interest of any to go to war. A new, dynamic "system" is created from these autonomous units that will not want to see itself destroyed.
So how will Tuggle's ideas influence our movement? He gives us a framework that is less rigid and doctrinaire. People do see their own happiness as tied to societal happiness, and expect others to share that vision. They see themselves as part of something greater than themselves, something they love. And for most Americans, that love is still for the flag and for the government in Washington, D.C. it represents. They believe in the system, thinking that it isn't perfect but that it has served them well.
Tuggle's unstated lesson is to understand this and to remember to empathize with people this way. His stated lesson is that this centralized, top-down form of organization, does not conform to the way nature – the way a system – works. As the federal government becomes more powerful and imposes more pressures on local systems, this will cause states and maybe even local cities to attempt secession, and encourage corporations and individuals to move elsewhere.
Tuggle's book deserves a wide reading, both within the freedom movement and throughout the larger society. Buy it, read it, and lend it on to a friend who believes that the federal government should do more for the common good.