Sunday, August 21, 2016

Synthesis and Checks And Balances

Ayn Rand said that “each issue has a right side and a wrong side, but the middle is always evil.” She was wrong.

There are two kinds of conflicts that play out at the political level: The conflicts of values and the conflicts of interests. While a case can be made that it is evil to compromise on values, seeking a middle ground between conflicting interests is true good. I do not just mean any middle ground, as the middle can be found in all sorts of undesirable places. I mean what I call a positive middle path. A path that sees what's right in each side and combines them while doing away with what's wrong in each.

In conflicts between business and labor, between men and women, between public power and private power, neither side is good and neither side is bad. Both are capable of both.

Business can create opportunity and prosperity; it can also poison the air and the water, treat its employees like garbage, and destroy priceless natural treasures that it cannot conceivably recreate. Labor can provide the brains and the brawns to make possible business prosperity; it can also demand ridiculous things from its bosses, advocate for murderous totalitarian orders, and destroy ambition and academic intelligence in its youth.

Men can mean anything from Thomas Jefferson to Osama Bin Laden. Women can mean anything from Mother Theresa and Marie Curie to Catherine McKinnon and Phyllis Schaffly.

Public power can mean anything from John Kennedy to Joseph Stalin. Private power can mean anything from the Freemasons, Medicins Sans Frontieres and the Oracle Corporation to Russian mafia, John Birch Society, Westboro Baptists, corrupt networks in law and medicine, and the Texas Oil.

Neither side is good, and neither side is bad. Both are capable of both.

In matters involving powers that are capable of both rightful and wrongful behavior, the solution is not to take either side. Doing that supports one side in wrongdoing while oppressing the other side even in its capacity to produce beneficial results. Instead the rational way to deal with such entities is to see where they can do right; see where they can do wrong; and empower the first while confronting the second.

The model of checks and balances has been successfully used to create the most benign governments in the history of humanity. Whereas probably the most useful idea to have come out of post-Aristotelian Western philosophy was the concept of synthesis. This model has been echoed in the business community by Steven Covey, who advocated “win-win scenarios” in which both sides to the deal negotiated solutions that worked for both.

I combine the two to create a model that combines the two: A model of synthesis within the framework of check-and-balance. At the bottom level, each side affirms its rightful prerogatives and checks the other in its capacity for wrongdoing. And at the top level, the two work together to achieve outcomes that neither can accomplish by itself.

There are rightful checks and balances on the government's capacity for tyranny and corruption; there should be similar checks and balances on private power. There should be checks in society on both men's capacity for incest and brutality and women's capacity for deception and viciousness. And business should be checked when it destroys what it cannot recreate, poisons the water or treats workers like garbage – in the same way as labor should be checked when it makes unreasonable demands, sabotages the minds of its children, or advocates for a slaughter of the propertied class.

Whereas all of the above should be supported and respected when they are doing the right thing.

And at the top level, each pair of interests should synthesize with each other to produce win-win scenarios.

That would mean business and labor negotiating solutions in which they are working constructively and fairly together. That would mean men and women creating beautiful, loving relationships and a wholesome family life. That would mean government and the private sector working together to create prosperity for the country and its citizens, combining government science, infrastructure and law enforcement with business opportunity, with the first providing the second the knowledge, the infrastructure and the law enforcement it needs to create prosperity – and the second adequately funding the first to make such things possible.

Ideal and pragmatism do not have to be things hostile to one another. There are practical ways to make possible idealistic outcomes. In conflicts between interests that are each capable of both rightful and wrongful behavior, the practical way to deal with them is the model of synthesis within the framework of check-and-balance. The second allows the interests to stop each other in their capacity for wrongdoing. The first allows them to work together to achieve beneficial results.

This idea has applications in economics, government and society. I believe that this is an idea whose time has come.


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