Thursday, May 31, 2012

Experiment: One-Article Constitution Corruption

The Constitution of the United States didn't work.

But let's try to fix it. I'm going to design a new one, and I want you to try to corrupt it. If nothing else, it will lead to a better understanding of why the original didn't work, and secondly, you'll never find out if the method is repairable if you don't try to repair it.

Inspired by China's Bad Emperor Problem. (Via.)

Problem: removing bad rulers.
Epistemic technique: turning the tables.
Solution: remove the subjects. Let the ruler stay.

You know, exit.

My proposal:

All taxes and other support from citizens may be freely withheld by citizens at any time and for any reason. The state may not punish, harass, or otherwise aggrieve citizens who exercise this option, directly or through the state's agents or allies, whether in an attempt to change their mind or for any other reason.

Also, unlike the American founders, I would write an addendum pedantically spelling out my interpretation, repeated from multiple angles. Like crime, argument cannot be eliminated - but, like crime, it can be dramatically curtailed. First example, I'd allow the state to withhold services from protesting citizens, but only if also withholding punishments. Another, having higher hospital fees for protester than foreigners is clearly ridiculous, as would be trying to force protesters to use state hospitals, without offering state subsidies.

So first attack, by me: perhaps add an all-or-nothing clause? The state can still do the subsidy/regulation thing in an attempt to woo back the protester, but only wholesale.

Wait, better. If the state wishes to 'provide' incomplete 'service', then the protester must explicitly consent to all 'services' applied.

Necessarily exit has to be protected, either by an implicit or explicit constitution. (Ref Eduardo Saverin, "Although Washington still hits up departing citizens for a tax on any unrealized capital gains—my Cato Institute colleague Dan Mitchell unkindly compared this to the “exit tax” imposed by German Nazis and Soviet Communists on departing Jews"

The implicit constitution does seem to support physical exit, but allow basically every other kind of barrier - social, financial, professional, etc.

Ironically, physical exit is a last-resort exit. It is an extreme reaction, whereas all you need is jurisdictional exit.

As a bonus, this constitution is negative, not positive. It does not grant rights to the state; it simply prohibits one thing, the wholesale outlawing of tax evasion. Which should never have been allowed by the state in the first place.

I should mention that the state is rich and I think therefore it can solve its own problems. For example, say Texas as a whole decides to protest, and as a result the military no longer wants to provide it with nuclear deterrence, but at the same time, knows that fallout from a strike on Texas would harm its interests. The solution? The military has tons of cash and manpower. Right now it can afford to cover practically the entire globe - it better be able to afford a freeloading Texas, if it really can't think of any better solution.

Come to think, the founders should have been able to figure out that real protest can only be a tax/resources protest. Did they not realize, or does this show that they weren't sincere?


Erik said...

1) Where do you draw the line between withholding services and punishing citizens? Take the case of toll roads or otherwise barred roads. Is the state considering to be withholding a service or punishing a citizen by not letting them drive through unless they pay?

2) Barbarians at arm's length. It seems like the ruler could get around the rule against punishing citizens with "Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?" then providing certain services, such as police protection and armament and presidential pardons, to citizens who are finger-quotes-volunteering to punish, harass, and otherwise aggrieve citizens who are withholding support.

Alrenous said...

So, say a protester is attacked and successfully executes lethal self-defence. However, they're charged with murder.

Can't let protesters get away with actual murder.

Similarly, hiring a extra-governmental security agency to protect the protester.

I think this rolls into the all-or-nothing clause. The state may prosecute for murder if and only if they also apply their self-defence rules.

But yes, in general protesters would have to take responsibility for their own security. I don't think that's too much of a barrier: if that causes no protests to happen, it means the state is probably worthwhile.

As for the toll road, the only one I've personally seen cannot be blocked off, so I shouldn't comment. Will anyway: least around here, I can't see how it would be a serious problem.

Anonymous said...

This was tried, not at the citizen level, but at the level of the states. The original organization of the US was under the Articles of Confederation. Although the states were *supposed* to pay the army and other obligations of the confederation, Congress had no power to force the states to live up to their obligations. As a result, the soldiers that fought in the revolution never got paid what they were owed. Voluntary funding by the states was a complete failure, and this failure is what convinced many that the confederation was unworkable and that a new constitution was necessary.

I see no reason why voluntary funding my citizens will work any better.

Alrenous said...

The original constitution attempted to fix the problem of perverse incentives in state organizations by giving more powers to slightly smaller states.

I'm not surprised it didn't work.