Friday, November 21, 2014

Four Provisions for Better Governance





          It seems everyone wants civic governance that would accommodate their private pursuit of the happiness they perceive for their life, not for an abstract future. America has progressed toward such liberty but seems stagnated if not regressive during recent decades. What can be done? Most individuals might agree to establish governance of by and for a people, at last. [On July 20, 2015, we exchanged the word "governance" for "collaboration."

Unresolved founding debates
          America was founded during conflict over concepts of liberty. First, there’s the Doctrine of Discovery: the freedom of a Christian authority to claim foreign lands and dominate the native people ostensibly to advance Christianity: call it Christian liberty to conquer or destroy. Both slavery in Africa and governance in America by the elite were fostered by the Doctrine of Discovery.[1] Second, there’s freedom of the colonists to govern themselves, which, after independence was won, became national liberty managed by the elite, presumably statesmen, but alas, often tyrants. Elitism remains a problem today with widening classism wherein the undereducated are kept undereducated by the welfare system while the elite milk GNP from the huge education budget and other budgets. Third, there’s freedom to think, which is not only an inalienable right but personal duty to grow maturity, call it personal psychological liberty. It requires cooperation in civic dependence. However, the founding generation was indoctrinated in both subservience to the elite and freedom to choose a god. Profound thought was restricted to theism in general, Christianity in particular, and Protestantism in preference.
          The First Amendment’s religion clauses, ratified in 1791, establish freedom of institutional theism instead of personal psychological liberty. Fourth, there’s freedom of a people, each of whom recognizes that beyond cooperative autonomy there is the need to civically govern, cultivating a republican form of civil order--the rule of law that cultivates justice; let’s call it republican liberty. The four liberties in this paragraph range from despotism to governance by the governed, and understanding them helps a person focus on the universal human quest for psychological maturity during some six to seven decades of living, if at all.
Mimicking Marshall Berman,[2] you may not be interested in governance, but governance is interested in you.

Major influences on the US Constitution, 1791

          Three of the profound thinkers during both the American Revolution (1765-1783) and the French Revolution (1789 to 1799) were Edmund Burke, defender of British order (Protestant elitism)[3]; Thomas Jefferson, defender of the personal right to grow psychological maturity; and Thomas Paine, defender of natural justice for every person (achievement warrants reward). Thomas Paine, in 1775, wonderfully castigated slavery and indicted Christians involved in the practice.[4] Thomas Jefferson in his famous statement, “I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man," was perhaps expressing humility in the seemingly unnecessary oath. It seems a statement against elitism. 
          Of course, I am leaving out many great men of the founding generation, such as Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, James Madison, Gouverneur Morris, and others. I am also leaving out subsequent champions against slavery and for slaves and their descendants, whose causes can be viewed as consequences of Discovery and elitism. However, the three thinkers named above wrote about liberty issues of the “enlightenment” during the revolutionary decades, and their debate has not been resolved.
              Burke, born in Ireland 1729 and died in England, 1797, influenced the founders who signed and ratified the 1787 Constitution, as well as some delegates who did not sign. Neither Jefferson nor Paine were delegates to the convention. The founders completed their debates with ratification of the Bill of Rights on December 15, 1791, when the negotiated Constitution was finally together.

          Contentions beyond 1787 were 1) “We the States” (Patrick Henry a champion) versus “We the People of the United States,” 2) no prayer and no god in the Philadelphia convention and the 1787 document versus governance under theism, and 3) elitism built into the Constitution, primarily by James Madison and his team. The first Congress established theism, in particular Christianity, in preference Protestantism, in May, 1789. Unsuccessfully, in 1801, US President Thomas Jefferson asserted that the First Amendment established separation of church and state and that it made no difference to a believer if his neighbor was atheist or non-theist. However, the US Supreme court promoted legislative prayer with tacit agreement by the majority from 1789 in Congress to state legislatures (Nebraska, Marsh v Chambers, 1983) and towns (Greece v Galloway, 2014), in direct rebuke of citizens who think civic prayer is civic immorality: About 75% of inhabitants seem happy with tyranny over the 25%.
 
 Significant change from then to now yet some traditional tyranny
              In 1790, 6% of the population could vote. Of the citizens (excludes slaves), 99% were sectarian Protestants; 1% were disparaged because they were Catholics; atheists or non-theists dared not express their thoughts; and personal religions of non-Christians, such as Amerindians, slaves, and Asians were regarded as “superstitions,” if at all. It seems to me among the sectarian Protestants—Calvinists, Episcopalians, Quakers, Anglicans, Baptists, etc., there were Unitarians (non-Trinitarian Christians) and deists, who empathized with Christian principles excluding the idea of a god who controls the unfolding of reality. Today, 100% of adult non-criminals may vote; 75% are Christian, 50% Protestant; 25% are rebuked by governance under theism: Rebuke of non-theists is traditional tyranny. I assert that this is so because a people have not resolved the debates between Burke, Jefferson, and Paine, as a minimum. Others, for example, Abraham Lincoln have effected significant redirection, sometimes regression, but the unresolved founding-arguments persist.
                 
A solution without politicial revolution
              America’s progress toward its promises to citizens has perhaps four missing elements: 1) recognition that a person need not discuss personal pursuits of happiness in order to either negotiate needed civic accommodation or understand why accommodation is not possible; for example, in a vehicular collision, no one needs to know where each driver was going; again, members in a ménage a trois can create a private contract of obligations but need not seek civil license; 2) commitment to the preamble to the US Constitution as a civic sentence[5] that declares purpose, goals, and civil governance; 3) agreement that civic collaboration should accommodate each individual’s pursuit of happiness according to no-harm, personal opinion, including no-harm religious opinion; and 4) cultivation of physics-based ethics as mediator of civic order (cultivation of just law). These provisions protect all no-harm religions, “no-harm” meaning lawful according to the order cultivated by a civic people. In other words, institutional religious doctrine must conform to civil law—the consent of a civic people--in order to accommodate the diverse no-harm religious institutions.
              Whereas the debates by Burke, Jefferson, and Paine left unsettled the imposition of theism into civic governance, the cultivation of physics-based ethics relieves that long-standing tension derived from the fact that everyone’s religion is private and no one can impose on her/him a differing religious opinion. Within each person's mind and heart, there is no such thing as heresy, and no one can impose heresy on her/him. Physics also resolves the issue of elitism, by bringing into light the fact that a person must both have time and take time to consider civic issues and select representatives of their preferences, if a people are to supervise civic governance, as it seems a people must.
 
Physics-based ethics
              I have only begun to explore “the ethics of physics” as I am using that phrase [and dropped the phrase for physics-based ethics after June 20, 2015]. However, the idea is that each person does the work to understand the objective truth, behaves according to the objective truth, publicly declares the reasons for the behavior, and remains alert to new evidence that the understanding was in error. Take for example spitting in the wind. A person understands that wind carries spit right back into the face; therefore, a person does not spit into the wind; if asked, a person would recommend that others not spit into the wind and also would publicly oppose any political candidate who purports to encourage people to spit into the wind; yet one remains alert to unexpected physical discovery: Suppose naturally aerated, ebola-spit autogenously vaccinates: Ebola patients might spit into the wind. In plainer example, cars can’t occupy the same space-time, so in negotiating an intersection, one car stops while the other passes, according to regulations. Drivers who refuse regulation are unethical. Or, in an ethical male-female relationship, each appreciates the other party’s personal autonomy until they mutually relinquish some privacy in cooperative intimacy; the male, recognizing that the female is already in cooperative autonomy with her viable ova, would not risk her pregnancy; in their cooperative autonomy, each appreciates the personal autonomy of any progeny of their sexual intimacy, so they are very cautious about making love. I have yet to find a case wherein religious morality is more informative than the ethics of physics regarding civic responsibility.

Assumptions about the human quest
              From my earliest social interactions beyond my cultural tunnel--in elementary school and as a newsboy--I have felt that all inhabitants are equal, unless they conduct criminal action. I have treated others with appreciation. In sophomore English, I wrote a term paper on Hinduism out of curiosity about religions/philosophies that assume reincarnation to resolve concerns about death. After the study, I concluded that reincarnation starts with a different assumption than Christianity’s salvation for eternity in heaven, then a preferable assumption for me. However, I gained a more serious perception that all humans seek relief from the unknowns and that Hindus do not feel compelled to proselytize. Thus, I know other persons’ inputs would better inform and strengthen this theory, and that is my primary interest in sharing the ideas: to learn from other living people so as to advance this theory if it is indeed mutually attractive.
              DNA informs us that we are all kin, being the distant progeny of a man and a woman in Africa some 200,000 years ago: Most of us want civic peace so that we can pursue the private happiness we perceive during our lives. It seems to me both the preamble and the ethics of physics are principles most people could embrace to resolve the issues yet unresolved from America’s founding, 225 years ago. In the preamble, I see three levels of governance and nine goals, and that is plenty for a nation of 320 million people to focus on for civic collaboration while they govern their private lives according to chosen necessities.

Collaboration of by and for a people is voluntary
              There is no need for a political revolution to establish collaboration of by and for a people. Any injustices in the US Constitution can be resolved by amendment once collaboration of by and for a people is established.  All that is needed is for a super-majority of this country’s inhabitants to use civic governance defined by the preamble to support their private pursuits of happiness. Thus, after sufficient sleep, nutrition, hygiene, home maintenance, family service, and vocation, spend some 90% of time on personal pursuits of happiness and the other 10% on civic collaboration. Change that ratio as needed to negotiate preferences. Abraham Lincoln, at Gettysburg (1863) suggested governance of by and for a people, and collaboration can be accomplished.
                 
Next scheduled activity
              Citizens for Celebrations of Ratification Days and Constitution Day will discuss these ideas from a historical perspective at Bluebonnet Library on Bill of Rights Ratification Day, December 15, 2014 at 6:00 PM until 8:45 PM in Meeting Room 3. The presentation, “A People: Individuals who cultivate the founding US principle,” has been developed during the past year and differs in particulars from the summary in this essay. The public is invited. I lead the discussion with a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation. Many pages are animated after introduction and discussion is possible throughout.
                 
The hope
              Through enriching discussions at the library and publishing a book, we hope to experience in three years time 70 % of inhabitants using the preamble and the ethics of physics for civic collaboration in support of their private pursuits. The idea is to end the cyclic competition for 50% plus one vote to lord it over “them” for an election cycle. We think this idea has the potential to make Baton Rouge the ideal city and an inspiration for the nation. If you have questions or comments please use the comments form, below. I am a chemical engineer and practitioner of living, not a writer, and appreciate corrections.

              Collaboration of by and for a people seems to us a noble project for Baton Rouge.
  
Copyright©2014 by Phillip R. Beaver. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted for the publication of all or portions of this paper as long as this complete copyright notice is included. Edited August 23, 2015


[1] The Doctrine of Discovery developed from “Until different,” a papal bull, June 18, 1452, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dum_Diversas .
[2] Marshall Berman. The Politics of Authenticity. 1970. Verso, 2009.
[3] Yuval Levin. The Great Debate Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left. 2014. Basic Books. Introduction of Thomas Jefferson into the debate is by Phil Beaver.
[5] The Christian majority long ago labeled the preamble “secular” perhaps to assert that it opposes the majority religion. However, the preamble is neutral to religion. Once again, a false tradition in the minds of the majority dominates civic discourse.